Manchester United have sacked Jose Mourinho following their disappointing start to the season.
The Red Devils currently sit sixth in the Premier League table but have already lost five times in 17 matches, leaving them 19 points behind leaders Liverpool and 11 off fourth-placed Chelsea in the fight for Champions League places.
That follows a summer transfer window in which Mourinho routinely complained about a lack of signings, with the Portuguese unable to persuade the club’s hierarchy to sign a new centre-back.
Mourinho has continued to drop hints that he remains unhappy at that failure to spend big, and he now leaves after two-and-a-half years at the Old Trafford helm, with his final match in charge Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to arch-rivals Liverpool.
“Manchester United announces that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club with immediate effect,” a statement read.
“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.”
Mourinho replaced Louis van Gaal in the United hotseat in the summer of 2016 and was tasked with leading the 20-time English champions back to the top of the domestic game after a barren three years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s appointment.
He started well, winning the Community Shield in his first match in charge before claiming the League Cup thanks to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired 3-2 win over Southampton.
Form in the league was not as strong, however, with the Red Devils only able to finish in sixth place, though their season did end on a high as a 2-0 win over Ajax in the final of the Europa League saw them qualify for the 2017-18 Champions League.
Mourinho’s second season in charge saw United finish a distant second in the Premier League to Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking Manchester City, and while they crashed out of the Champions League to Sevilla in the last 16 and lost the FA Cup final to Chelsea, there was hope the former Real Madrid boss would be able to kick on again having signed a new improved contract in the early weeks of 2018.
That has not come to pass, however, with United currently on a run of just two wins from eight matches in all competitions.
Further to displays on the pitch, reports of dressing room unrest have overshadowed Man Utd’s performances over the course of the season, with Mourinho’s relationship with club-record signing Paul Pogba a constant talking point.
World Cup winner Pogba has struggled for consistency under Mourinho, and this season things seem to have taken a turn for the worse, with the former Juventus man unable to hold down a regular berth in the ex-Chelsea boss’ preferred 11.
The nadir came at Anfield on Sunday, with Mourinho deciding against bringing Pogba off the bench despite his side needing to find a goal to get back into the game following Xherdan Shaqiri’s own match-winning performance as a substitute for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Whomever takes temporary charge until the end of the season will now be tasked with pushing United back into the race to finish in the top four while also plotting a path towards silverware in both the Champions League – where they play Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 – and the FA Cup, with Reading their third-round opponents.
Reports suggest assistant coach Michael Carrick is not in the frame to take on that role, with the interim manager’s first game on Saturday away at Cardiff City, and an external candidate expected to be appointed within 48 hours.
Zinedine Zidane and Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, are among the favourites to take the role full-time come the summer.