Football

Pressure mounts on Man United boss Mourinho after Newcastle defeat

Ex-United skipper Neville says manager must deliver EPL title by next season

Former Manchester United skipper Gary Neville has said that Jose Mourinho needs to deliver the English Premier League title by next season, or face dire consequences.

The popular football pundit's comments on the Gary Neville Podcast came after the Red Devils fell to a shock 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United on Sunday.

The result not only saw them drift further away from champions-elect Manchester City, who are 16 points ahead, but also allowed Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool to close the gap on Mourinho's second-placed side.

For English football's most successful team, five years have been too long a wait for an EPL title and another season of failure will be one too many.

Said Neville: "The individual talent is there but to coordinate that into a team is Jose Mourinho's job in the next few months.

"He has to make them into a team. They look like a team that play five per cent below the intensity that they can play at.

"That's what Mourinho has to do. He has to mould this talented group of players into a team that can come together and can win the title.

"Next season will be Jose's third season and you would think in his mind, and in everyone's minds, that he has to win it next season.

"They have to start preparing now and days like today do damage confidence."

Sunday's defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for the Old Trafford outfit, who had plenty of chances to win the game but instead conceded the only goal of the match, in the 65th minute, to Newcastle's Matt Ritchie.

Mourinho has spent almost £300 million (S$550m) on new players since arriving in the summer of 2016, and that is excluding the complicated swop deal that saw Alexis Sanchez join from Arsenal last month.

But the criticism on some of those signings is mounting.

For, instance, star midfielder Paul Pogba's failure to influence a match, yet again, came under scrutiny, but Mourinho was reluctant to single out any player for blame.

When asked about the performance of his £89m signing from 2016, he said: "It's very difficult to put me in a position where I have to criticise my players."

This inability to extract the best out of his star names consistently is what prompted ex-Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp to question the United board's decision to last month extend Mourinho's contract by a year to 2020, with an option of activating a further year.

Redknapp wrote in the Daily Mail: "When Manchester United extended Mourinho's contract with a year-and-a-half to run, I was genuinely surprised. What has he done to earn it?

"They are being left in the shade by City in almost every department. While (Pep) Guardiola's best team trips off the tongue, it is difficult to name United's preferred XI.

"Mourinho has done little to improve United's style of play. Gone are the early-season swashbuckling displays against the likes of West Ham, Swansea and Everton.

"When United have come up against a fellow top-six side, they have pulled up the handbrake.

"Mourinho cannot justify those negative tactics with results, having won just one of his nine away games against those teams as United boss."

Former Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton also feels that Mourinho is increasingly looking out of place with the 20-time English top-flight champions.

He said on Talksport: "Everytime there is a negative performance, a negative result, the fans say 'this isn't the United way, we don't play like this, he is not our kind of manager'.

"I don't think he has done anything to endear himself to the Man United faithful. I don't think he is a perfect fit."

The loss at St James' Park, though, left Mourinho full of praise of his opponents, even as the pressure on him builds up.

Mourinho told Sky Sports: "They (Newcastle) fought like animals, that's a good word in football, and I hope they understand it as a compliment.

Mourinho's United future will now depend on his ability to coax those animals out of his own players.

Football