Jose Mourinho insisted he was still the man to turn Manchester United’s ailing season around as Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper reported he would be sacked regardless of Saturday’s result against Newcastle at Old Trafford.
United are struggling in 10th place in the Premier League, without a home win in any competition since the opening weekend of the season.
According to the Mirror, Mourinho has lost the confidence of the board with “senior United sources” telling the paper that the Portuguese coach’s nearly two-and-a-half-years in charge will end whatever the outcome of the league game against the Magpies.
Tuesday’s goalless draw against Valencia in the Champions League — a match where United struggled to live up to their fans’ expectation of attacking football — also meant former Chelsea boss Mourinho had gone four home matches without a win for the first time in his managerial career.
He has repeatedly and publicly berated United’s players this season, suggesting in Tuesday’s programme notes they had lost their “dignity” in a 3-1 league loss at West Ham last Saturday.
Mourinho has in turn come for stinging criticism from ex-players, with former United midfielder Paul Scholes accusing him of “embarrassing” the club.
– ‘Better than this’ –
The manager has responded by claiming United overachieved last season in finishing second, 19 points behind champions Manchester City, adding he always expected this campaign to be more difficult.
Asked at his pre-match press conference on Friday if he felt he had taken United as far as he could last season, Mourinho said: “No. This team can do much better than what it is doing. The team will do much better than what it is doing.
“If you want me to repeat (what I said earlier this week), I repeat. I said last season was a fantastic season for us.
“And if you want something more, in pre-season I also said that this season was going to be very difficult.”
The 55-year-old Mourinho defended himself in the press conference, called for the earlier-than-usual time of 8:00 am (0700 GMT), which lasted for eight minutes and 29 seconds, and consisted of just 649 words
He gave short answers to most of the questions put to him, including when asked why it was so difficult to get players working together with team spirit. “Because sometimes things are not just in the manager’s hands,” he replied.
Mourinho rejected suggestions his squad were struggling for confidence.
“No, I think we have enough potential to do better than what we are doing in the Premier League,” he said.
“We are better than this and because we are better than this, our situation is going to improve. I have no doubts about that.”
Asked who was to blame for United’s predicament, Mourinho responded: “The same people that were to blame for the fantastic season of last season.”
The manager added United enjoyed a successful campaign by finishing second in May, ahead of “opponents with more potential than us”.
“Success has a direct relation with your own potential and a direct relation with the potential of your opponents,” he explained.
“The last season was phenomenal exactly because of these two factors — our potential and the potential of our opponents.
“I think opponents with much more potential than us finished behind us. That is the reason why it was a phenomenal season.
“With all the respect — and I hope they don’t interpret me in a negative way — if we are playing in a league like the Swiss league and we don’t win that league, that would be an awful season.
“Last season, to finish second was fantastic for us.”