As Jose Mourinho is sacked by Manchester United, we recall the highs and lows of his Old Trafford tenure.
Mourinho leaves United after two and a half years in charge, his departure confirmed in the wake of Sunday’s 3-1 defeat by Liverpool.
His reign included trophy successes in the EFL Cup and Europa League during his first season, but United failed to win silverware in his second season and he leaves with them sixth in the Premier League and 19 points off the top.
LOW: Stamford Bridge nightmare
Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge ended in humiliation in October 2016 as Manchester United were thrashed 4-0 by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. It was the Portuguese’s first trip back to west London since his sacking midway through the previous season, but United conceded inside the first minute when Pedro capitalised on defensive uncertainty and never recovered
Gary Cahill doubled Chelsea’s advantage, with Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante extending their lead in the second half as the home supporters chanted “you’re not special anymore” at the self-proclaimed Special One. Afterwards, Mourinho ignited a feud with Conte by accusing him of attempting to humiliate him with his wild touchline celebrations.
HIGH: EFL Cup success
Mourinho guided Manchester United to Community Shield success against Leicester in his first match in charge, but his first meaningful piece of silverware came in February, when he lifted the EFL Cup following a dramatic 3-2 win over Southampton at Wembley.
United were second best for much of the contest, with Southampton coming from two goals down to draw level thanks to Manolo Gabbiadini’s double, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s strike in the 87th minute proved decisive after Claude Puel’s side had seen a goal wrongly ruled out of offside.
“I’m happy for the players and the fans,” said Mourinho. “I try to put myself secondary, but the truth is it was important for me. I put pressure on myself. I try to win a major trophy at every club, so to win with Manchester United is a relief. The reality is we want more.”
HIGH: Europa glory
United’s Premier League struggles continued after their EFL Cup triumph, but three months later they were celebrating their second piece of silverware under Mourinho. The path to the Europa League final was long and gruelling, but they had no problems overcoming Ajax in the final.
Paul Pogba opened the scoring at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan making the result safe early in the second half as Mourinho clinched the fourth European trophy of his managerial career. It ensured the season ended on a high and, perhaps more significantly, it secured United’s qualification to the Champions League.
HIGH: Lukaku’s big impact
Manchester United started Mourinho’s second season strongly, in no small part thanks to £75m signing Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian, who Mourinho briefly worked with at Chelsea, marked his Manchester United debut with two goals in a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham.
The strong start filled United supporters with optimism, and there was more to come. United won nine of their first 10 games of the season in all competitions, scoring three or more goals in seven of them. Lukaku led the way with 10.
LOW: Huddersfield humiliation
United’s first defeat of the 2017/18 season was an embarrassing one. Premier League new boys Huddersfield had not beaten United for 65 years, but they capitalised on two defensive errors in the space of five first-half minutes to take a commanding lead. Mourinho’s men then couldn’t find an equaliser after Marcus Rashford had pulled one back.
The win left United five points behind Manchester City after just two months of the season, with Mourinho questioning his side’s attitude and describing their performance as a “shock”.
LOW: City wreck title hopes
The following December at Old Trafford, Mourinho had to face up to the grim reality of admitting United’s title hopes were “probably over” following a 2-1 defeat to arch-rivals Manchester City. David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi were on target for Pep Guardiola’s side, who moved 11 points clear with a record 14th consecutive top-flight win.
Mourinho insisted City had been “lucky” and accused referee Michael Oliver of wrongly dismissing a late United penalty appeal, but the defeat invited more scrutiny of his negative tactics in games against top-six rivals.
HIGH: Etihad comeback
In April, United faced the humiliating prospect of watching Manchester City clinch the Premier League title against them at the Etihad Stadium. It seemed the worst-case scenario was looming when goals from Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan put Guardiola’s side 2-0 up in the first half, but United staged an extraordinary comeback after the break.
Pogba was the catalyst, scoring twice in the space of two minutes, with Chris Smalling netting the winner midway through the second period. City’s title party was put on hold, and Mourinho silenced a few of United’s doubters in the process.
LOW: FA Cup heartache
United had the chance to turn an underwhelming season into a credible one when they headed to Wembley to face Chelsea in the FA Cup final in May. United had beaten Mourinho’s former side 2-1 at Old Trafford a few months earlier, and with Conte on his way out of the club following a poor campaign, they were favourites to lift the trophy.
Unfortunately for United, it wasn’t to be. Hazard, who Mourinho clashed with during his time at Stamford Bridge, scored a first-half penalty, and United, for whom Romelu Lukaku was only fit enough for a place on the bench, were unable to find a response. For Mourinho, it meant a trophyless season.
LOW: Manchester derby defeat
United headed to the Etihad Stadium on the back of a morale-boosting comeback win away against Juventus in the Champions League in November but there was no repeat of those heroics against Manchester City.
Instead, however, United were outclassed. David Silva opened the scoring in the 12th minute, with Sergio Aguero doubling City’s advantage after the break. Anthony Martial pulled a goal back from the penalty spot but Ilkay Gundogan wrapped up the win in the closing stages.
The defeat left United 12 points behind City in eighth place after just 12 Premier League games of the season. It also underlined the gulf between the two sides.
LOW: Liverpool loss
Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool proved to be the final straw for United. Mourinho desperately needed a result following a run of only two wins from their previous seven games, but they never really looked like getting it. Jesse Lingard cancelled out Sadio Mane’s opener against the run of play but Xherdan Shaqiri scored twice from the bench to pile more misery on Mourinho’s side.
By the end, the 3-1 scoreline was flattering on United. Liverpool attempted 36 shots to United’s four and had 65 per cent of the possession. Afterwards, Mourinho bemoaned his players’ lack of intensity but United evidently lay the blame at his own feet.