December 19, 2018

Mourinho’s firing was a long time coming

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

So what do we call Jose Mourinho now? The Sacked One? The Special Gone?

Whatever you want to call him, it’s no longer going to be Manchester United’s manager.

Mourinho was relieved of his duties on Tuesday morning, days after his team was torn apart by rival Liverpool, leaving it 19 points behind the first-place Reds in the table.

Coming off a second-place finish, United has greatly underachieved in the first half of this season. It sits in sixth place, has a goal differential of zero and has already allowed more goals than it did during the entire 2017-18 campaign.

To make matters worse, Mourinho has been openly feuding with the team’s most expensive player, Paul Pogba, even keeping the Frenchman on the bench or out of the squad entirely. As we’ve seen before in sports, when a manager and a star player are at loggerheads, it’s usually the manager that is sent packing.

When watching the Liverpool-United game on the weekend, it was astounding to see how much of a gulf in class there is between the teams at the moment. Also, consider that Mourinho and Reds manager Jurgen Klopp have spent the same amount on transfers since starting in their posts, it shows just who the ‘Special’ manager really is.

The Reds outplayed the Red Devils by an incredible amount. Every facet of the game was in Liverpool’s favour, with only an error by Alisson keeping his team from clean sheet.

Liverpool’s 36 attempts on goal were the most in the Premier League this season, something you’d expect to see in a game between Man City and Huddersfield – which was the previous high at 32.

United reportedly will now look to find a caretaker manager for the remainder of the season before naming a permanent successor. Plenty of names are being thrown around for the post, with Laurent Blanc the bookies’ heavy favourite at 6/4 while Zinedine Zidane and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are next at 5/1 each.

Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino has already squashed rumours that he could move north to take the job, but you never know.

And we’re sure that even the possibility of Arsene Wenger taking over the team would drive United supporters to the bottle.

INGS CLIPS GUNNERS’ WINGS

Danny Ings didn’t need much warmup in his return from injury.

After sitting out four games the Southampton striker bagged a brace to end Arsenal’s unbeaten run at 22 games. Even better for the Saints, it was their first win at home since April.

The whole thing was made a bit easier for Southampton and Ings thanks to the abundance of injuries and suspensions that Arsenal was dealing with. It got even worse during the game, with Hector Bellerin getting subbed off due to a knock.

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–Eden Hazard has done really well playing in the false 9 role for Chelsea. He has a goal and three assists in his past two games in that role, though he did pick up a slight knock on Sunday.

–Manchester City got back on track and back on top of the table for at least one day. It’s clear that the Sky Blues are intent on starting another unbeaten run after their first loss last week.

–Wolves have now won three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in the club’s history. They’re also just a point back of United, sitting in seventh place. Could Europa League play be coming to Wolverhampton next fall?

–Christian Eriksen played the hero for Tottenham after rather dull game against Burnley. You have to credit the Clarets for holding on into injury time, but there’s no way that Eriksen should’ve been able to get unmarked in the box like that.

–Things are going to get really crazy, really soon. With Boxing Day games next week, teams will be playing three times in the course of a week. Spurs and Everton get the quickest turnarounds, playing Sunday and Wednesday.

–The Boxing Day fixtures also mark the halfway point of the season, when each team has faced every possible opponent. That should give us the best idea about which teams are for real and which might’ve had early runs based on scheduling luck.

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