LONDON. – There are two crucial qualities required at board level by every major football club when it comes to hiring and firing their managers: ruthlessness and foresight.
As the Jose Mourinho “stay or go” saga rumbles on at Manchester United, neither quality is there in abundance in the Old Trafford boardroom.
United’s owners, the Glazer family and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward are displaying admirable patience, which is perhaps also laced with indecision as the situation with Mourinho reaches a critical stage. But what they lack is the clarity of thought and readiness to act that have been evident at Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool in recent seasons.
When those clubs chose to make a managerial change, there was a clear plan in place for months in terms of succession. But United, as they did with David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, allow themselves to get caught in a fog of confusion and make a mess of things before finding themselves on the back foot when they need to take the initiative.
Both Moyes and Van Gaal were given stays of execution, with their reigns ended only after they missed out on Champions League qualification, but both could and should have gone earlier. The Glazers and Woodward lacked the ruthlessness to act when the situation had been retrievable in each campaign.
History is beginning to repeat itself with Mourinho.
Despite the manner of United’s 3-2 victory against Newcastle at Old Trafford on Saturday, when the home team overturned a 2-0 deficit to win with a dramatic 90th-minute goal from Alexis Sanchez, there are still no guarantees that Mourinho will be in charge for the club’s next fixture against his former club, Chelsea, on Oct. 20.
The Glazers and Woodward do not want to sack Mourinho yet, but the root of the managerial uncertainty at United stems from the Portuguese’s belief that the board has not shown him sufficient public backing, either through a statement or promises of money to spend in January, so the situation remains uncertain.