Why United shouldn't have signed Mourinho
After Manchester United's 4-0 humiliation at Chelsea, there were always going to be two predictable reactions. First, Jose Mourinho should be sacked immediately. And second, he needs more time to build his own squad. Our writer believes that both reactions miss the point. Mourinho shouldn't have been handed the keys to Old Trafford in the first place. Here's why:
1. Jose isn't being the real Jose
He waved his arms at his players. He conducted a sing-along chorus with the multitudes and sent out fresh instructions at every throw-in.
In short, Antonio Conte looked and sounded a lot like the old fist-pumping, touchline-charging Mourinho of the past.
At Stamford Bridge, the forlorn Portuguese coach was a rusty engine running on empty.
He didn't engage the crowd or pump up the volume. He didn't do anything beyond whispering in Conte's ear some puerile rubbish about being disrespectful.
Rather than chipping away at his squad, he's chipping away at himself, trying to turn himself into a confused ideal of what a Manchester United manager is supposed to be.
Mourinho was allegedly hurt by the comments of Ferguson and Charlton, who once claimed he wasn't United material. Those comments were of course ridiculous.
Having faced a tongue-lashing from Ferguson in a press conference, it's worth remembering that he could be rude, vindictive and spiteful, capable of bearing grudges across two autobiographies.
He was also brilliant, just as Mourinho once was.
But Mourinho has fallen for the mythical aura that surrounds the United manager and slipped into a straitjacket.
The humour, the arrogance, the cheeky grin and the witty asides have all gone; replaced with a surly, downbeat individual with little stomach for the fight.
Perhaps the United job came five years too late. Perhaps his peers have overtaken him.
Either way, Mourinho's alchemy has deserted him, along with his confidence.
2. Jose divides, but no longer conquers
Mourinho may fail at three clubs in a row. This is a contentious point, but a re-examination of recent history hints at the limited shelf life of his polarising style.
Siege mentalities are not built to last. An eternal loathing of outsiders is too tiring to sustain. The poison eventually spreads through the dressing room.
After the Treble-winning pinnacle at Inter Milan in 2010, Mourinho has won two titles in six years.
For just about any other coach, such a return of investment would be rewarded with the freedom of the city (just look at Arsene Wenger).
But the reason other managers endure, despite a comparative lack of success, is they don't borrow Mourinho's abrasive, divisive style.
He turned the Real Madrid dressing room against the media, then they turned on each other, then they turned on him.
He then went to Chelsea and repeated the trick. His initial honeymoon period - with the Bridge buoyed by the return of the prodigal son narrative - lifted the club to another title.
But within months, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic went from best players to worst, openly revolting against their manager.
And foolishly, Mourinho is at it again at United.
Anyone who challenges his decisions is publicly savaged. His defenders are openly criticised.
His post-match bitching no longer entertains, but exasperates.
He wears his siege mentality like the emperor's new clothes. It's too transparent now.
Mourinho is turning United into the club that everyone loves to hate again.
Ferguson once did the same, but that's because United kept winning. Now it's because Mourinho keeps whining.
3. Transfers too predictable
At Chelsea, it was Samuel Eto'o and, ridiculously, Radamel Falcao.
At United, it's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
As Mourinho's rivals adopt an evolving transfer policy, his remains predictable.
Hunt down a big, physically imposing striker to send up front.
Ibrahimovic's pedigree cannot be questioned, but that's precisely the point.
Mourinho buys proven brands, rarely indulging in risks on raw, youthful talent (in fact, he usually gets rid of the latter, such as Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne).
Buying Paul Pogba hardly revealed scouting genius, but betrayed a panic-stricken boardroom with more money than sense.
Conte picked up a couple of smart purchases in Marcos Alonso and N'Golo Kante.
Liverpool grabbed Sadio Mane and even Everton nabbed an attacking gem in Yannick Bolasie.
United spent almost £150 million ($255.5m) on Pogba, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
It's unfortunate that Bailly is now injured, but the right position still can't be found for Pogba and Mkhitaryan has been criticised by Mourinho for lacking the right intensity.
There's already talk that Mkhitaryan might be moved on. It's farcical.
4. Tactics too predictable
Everyone remembers Steven Gerrard's infamous slip against Chelsea and how it cost Liverpool the title back in 2014.
But the game's villain overlooked the real hero.
The Reds turned up with an 11-match winning streak and Luis Suarez scoring for fun, but Mourinho stopped them all.
His tactical master plan involved parked buses, extra midfielders and a generous dollop of gamesmanship.
Everyone tried to stop Liverpool from playing, even Mourinho, holding the ball on the touchline.
Rumour has it he even had the flu that day. At the weekend, he just looked frozen.
The 4-1-4-1, the lone striker, the defensive midfielders, the lack of pace and the painfully slow transitions, United were infuriatingly predictable, one-paced and one-dimensional.
Mourinho didn't know how to change the game's complexion.
He doesn't know what to do with Pogba. He doesn't even know his best 11. His template belongs to another era.
Sadly, Mourinho looks like he doesn't belong at Manchester United.
"They are like mannequins in those red shirts. He (N’Golo Kante) has walked through £130 million ($221m) of midfield. It’s absolutely garbage defending."
— Former Man United defensive star Gary Neville
"What was the point of Jose Mourinho signing creative, exciting players like Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan if he’s going to play so negatively?"
— Ex-Liverpool captain Jamie Redknapp, writing in the Daily Mail
Can anyone manage United?
Steve Bruce proved that a former United player under Ferguson could make a long-term career in management. But Bryan Robson proved that it wasn't a guarantee.
Giggs spent almost 30 years at Old Trafford and knows the club's psyche inside out.
A short caretaker spell after David Moyes' departure gave Giggs a taste, but his laid-back, relaxed and soft-spoken demeanour doesn't lend itself to an explosive half-time team talk.
There's still a sense that his time will come, just not now.
Combative and feverishly committed to his cause, the Argentinian comes across as an old-school firebrand.
His attacking emphasis at Atletico Madrid and a smart transfer policy have allowed the lesser club to challenge the La Liga top two.
But his temperament may be a little too close to Mourinho for the conservative hierarchy at United.
The Bournemouth manager kept the minnows up with an attractive philosophy. Bournemouth are unbeaten at home in four games and establishing themselves in the top flight.
Howe is a self-professed workaholic and committed student of the game, but at 38, he's not quite ready for United.
He's the most exciting manager in the English Premier League. The Argentinian's steady progress at Southampton and now Tottenham has been nothing short of spectacular.
He blends youth with experience, establishes a counter-surging model and drills relentlessly.
In other words, Pochettino is putting together one of the most authentic United sides since Ferguson's retirement. He's just doing it at Tottenham.
Should United eventually tire of Mourinho's antics, his replacement is waiting at White Hart Lane.
- NEIL HUMPHREYS