Third season meltdown again
Manchester United have sacked manager Jose Mourinho after their worst start to a season in almost 30 years, the club announced on Tuesday.
The 55-year-old Portuguese's last match in charge was the 3-1 defeat by Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday which left them 19 points behind their opponents.
Mourinho's sacking comes just two-and-a-half years into his tenure and three years and a day since Chelsea sacked him just months after he had guided them to the title.
Former player Michael Carrick, now a member of the coaching staff, is expected to take charge in an interim role but United said a caretaker manager will be appointed until the end of the season.
The club's worst start in the league since 1990 means even Mourinho's ambition of reaching the top four and a Champions League qualification spot is in danger.
Despite United reaching the Champions League knockout stages -- they face an intimidating last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain -- a mix of the results, dressing-room discord and criticism of the board's transfer policy proved potent factors in the decision to dismiss him.
A United source told AFP that Mourinho had been supported in his efforts to sign players and described reports of player power at the club as being key to the sacking as wide of the mark.
According to British media reports, United will have to pay Mourinho £22.5 million -- as the club are still in the Champions League -- to sever the ties.
"Manchester United announces that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club with immediate effect," a club statement said. "The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future. A new caretaker manager will be appointed until the end of the current season, while the club conducts a thorough recruitment process for a new, full-time manager."
Carrick is favoured for the caretaker role having become part of the coaching staff this season.
In the longer term former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has been linked to the club and Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino could also be a name in the frame.
One bookmaker makes Pochettino the early favourite and the 46-year-old Argentinian is also former Manchester United midfielder Gary Neville's favoured option.
"They need someone who meets the three key principles of that football club: the promotion of youth, entertaining football and to win football matches," Neville told Sky Sports News. "People suggest he [Pochettino] hasn't won a trophy yet at Tottenham but with a net spend of minus £29 million or something over the last four years, I'm not sure he could have done more. I do think he is the person who is the outstanding candidate."
Andy Mitten, editor of fanzine United We Stand, told BBC Radio that neither the players nor the fans would miss Mourinho.
"We've been doing polls where 80 percent of fans wanted him to leave," said Mitten. "He had a very good first season, an acceptable second season, but this season has been a disaster."
TIMELINE OF THE LOW POINTS
19 May - United lose FA Cup final 1-0 to Chelsea, ending a season without a trophy for first time in three years.
19 August - Defeat in second game of new Premier League season 3-2 to Brighton & Hove Albion.
27 August - Mourinho sees his side lose 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, the biggest home defeat of his career. Complains about 'respect' to media after the game.
22 September - Midfielder Paul Pogba says United should attack more at home after disappointing 1-1 draw with Wolves. Mourinho strips Frenchman of vice-captaincy in growing rift.
25 September - United dumped out of the League Cup at home by second-tier Derby County on penalties
29 September - 3-1 defeat in the league by West Ham United means United suffer their worst start to a new season in 29 years.
8 October - Investigated by FA after allegedly swearing in Portuguese to camera after 3-2 comeback win over Newcastle United.
11 November - Comprehensively outplayed and beaten 3-1 by champions Manchester City away.
16 December - Another 3-1 defeat, this time by fierce rivals Liverpool which leaves United 19 points behind their league leading opposition.
18 December - Mourinho sacked with the club sixth in the Premier League.
What They Said
With United 19 points behind Liverpool after 17 games, with the vast majority of players playing way below their best... and dour football to boot. Given Mourinho was allowed to spend hundreds of millions on those players, the split seemed inevitable.
-- Gary Lineker
I think he [Mourinho] would have known this was coming. I'm not surprised... with the money he has spent and how the players are playing at this present moment in time... I said on Sunday, I couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel for them. I was at Bournemouth two weeks ago. I'm a season ticket holder there. My season ticket is 10 rows behind the dugout and I saw a man who didn't want to be there..
-- Graeme Souness
"Inevitable is the word I'd use. Mourinho had to go in the end. Simply not getting anywhere near enough out of his players."
The thing that is annoying me the most right now is why are people so focused on Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho. Let's focus on rebuilding something solid instead of being in a playground. Doing this is only disrespecting the badge, from now we only need positivity.
I want to see my best wishes to [Mourinho]. I am so sorry, I know him well, and it's sad news. It's not my business what happens at another club, I just want to send my best wishes to Jose. In five years there have been a lot of rumours about my position as manager at Tottenham. I cannot answer this type of question. The business you know very well, a lot of rumours happen. I'm so focused in trying to deliver my best in this football club.