Jose Mourinho won’t get sacked if he loses this weekend nor will he get the boot this season, even if things continue as they have since mid-September. It won’t happen. It can’t happen.
Then again, everyone said Brexit and President Trump couldn’t and wouldn’t happen. Yet, they both did, to the horror of many and the joy of many other joyless people. Still, it should be a fun few years to see how international relations works with America as a vassal state for Vladimir Putin, with the name “Trumplandia.”
The point is, you never say never. United’s big lunchtime rumble – more of a discussion on Sky Arts compared to United and Arsenal clashes of old – is a big game for the club and the manager. All the bigger, considering the concerning financial news this week. The consequences of the EU referendum has seen United’s debts rise and United stand to lose a significant amount of money should they fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League – around £20 million a year.
Should United lose to Arsenal and the chances of finishing outside the top four, two years running for the first time in over 25 years, increases greatly. The leading quartet is already taking shape with Arsenal, City, Chelsea and Liverpool forming a clearer leading pack and Spurs tucked in behind. We are now in mid-November, fans cannot keep saying the phrase “early days” to justify another defeat.
A draw may do but it needs to be a draw that at least encourages the fans of a brighter tomorrow. Another repeat of the thoroughly grim goalless draw with Liverpool, on home turf, will not go down well with anyone considering memories of the dour Louis Van Gaal are still fresh.
Amid all this, Mourinho seems more concerned waging psychological guerrilla warfare on his own squad rather getting results. It has left a state of uncertainty over squad selection. This isn’t always a bad thing, but when a player is playing well and is suddenly dismissed for no reason, or dismissed without being given a chance by the man who sought out your services personally – in the case of a certain Armenian – then players lose their motivation.
What team will Mourinho turn out tomorrow? Nobody has the foggiest idea, especially with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s silly suspension. Paul Pogba will likely play, as will David De Gea and Ander Herrera providing he doesn’t hack down a linesman in the tunnel with his new Roy Keane-lite persona. Phil Jones is seemingly in the gaffer’s good books despite his moment to fulfil his potential having long since passed with his dislocated brain; Marcos Rojo has no business playing centre half and Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini have no business on a football field. And what of Luke Shaw? Seemingly on the edge of being exiled, he probably won’t play but Mourinho may surprise us and play him anyway to spite everyone else’s criticisms.
Predicting Mourinho though, is a self-defeating exercise at the moment. Whatever he does, it needs to be very good, as this is his most important match so far at Old Trafford. Moreover, this spell at United basically has Mourinho’s professional career on the line. Fail at United and he likely knows he won’t be able to go elsewhere. He’ll be yesterday’s man with a whole lotta burnt bridges left in his wake.
In some ways, this is reminiscent of the United and Arsenal FA cup game in 2011. United were in poor form, injuries had ravaged the squad and questions were being asked of Sir Alex Ferguson. He promptly fielded a team with seven defenders in the starting eleven and won 2-0.
As much as the prospect of fielding seven defenders at one time is positively salivating to Mourinho, United’s relative poverty in that department means Mourinho must go against type and be positive. Warding off Arsenal’s attack with Rojo wandering around the defence with the look of a matchday fanzine seller accidentally mistaken for squad member and thrown out onto the field of play.
In theory, United should win due to Arsenal’s gutless nature in the face of such opportunities and Mourinho having permanent residence in Arsene Wenger’s head. Should United fail to capitalise on these psychological advantages however, and Mourinho will have good reason for continuing his dark mood. The Special One maybe the chosen man of United’s idiotic executives for now, but as David M***s and Van Gaal will tell you; that can change very quickly.