Despite picking up a much needed morale boosting win in the League Cup over a severely depleted Manchester City side, Jose Mourinho has endured a turbulent start to his Manchester United reign. While Mourinho has suffered plenty in the last 12 months, nothing would have hurt him more than the humbling he suffered at his old stomping ground Stamford Bridge on Sunday. His United team were listless, conceding a comical goal inside the first 30 seconds on their way to a 4-0 shellacking at the hands of a rejuvenated Chelsea side.
There is no doubt the nature of the defeat at a Club where he was sacked twice, despite winning three Premier League titles, would have have rankled with Mourinho. However, perhaps an even more crushing blow to his ego would have been the relative indifference his return generated among the Stamford Bridge faithful. When he returned with Inter in the Champions League in 2010 he was like a returning hero, with players and fans alike yearning for a possible return. He has been a God-like figure at Chelsea, and, while he remains a highly revered figure at Stamford Bridge, there will be no so such yearning for a third return. There were no posters for Jose, no standing ovations on his arrival. Indeed some from quarters of the ground baited Mourinho by singing "you're not special anymore" when Chelsea went 2-0 up. Worse was to come at 4-0 when some drummed up the old famous "Jose Mourinho" chant, dripping with irony and sarcasm.
In his last 29 matches as a Premier League manager he has the barely believable record of 8 wins, 8 draws, and 13 losses. Thats 33 points from 29 games with Chelsea, and now Manchester United, which is a tick above relegation form. Mourinho was infamously sacked from Chelsea in December last year, having lost 9 of their first 15 matches to have them just 1 point ahead of the relegation zone on 16 points. His term at Manchester United started on a much brighter note winning their opening 3 matches with relative comfort heading into a massive Manchester derby against old foe Pep Guardiola. However United were played off the park in the Derby despite only losing 2-1. This game started a bad run with United winning just 1 of their past 6 matches, including embarrassing defeats at Watford and Chelsea.
To study him in press conferences and on the sideline he looks a cross between bored, shell shocked, miserable and tetchy as his slump continues. There does not appear much of the old swagger, and certainly none of the charisma that used to have the British media eating out of the palms of his hands. While his football was rarely swashbuckling, he used to have his players like ravenous dogs, that would run through brick walls for him. While just seven days earlier his players executed his game plan to a tee in stifling Liverpool into a 0-0 draw, these performances have been few and far between. Even though United managed a decent result at a venue where they have often struggled, Mourinho was extremely defensive and I wonder how long United supporters will accept those sorts of displays. This was a club built on aggressive and attacking football and Mourinho spent over 100 Million in the off-season.
Mourinho regularly digs at his players for individual mistakes, and if he continues with this approach he is probably a chance of losing the dressing room like he did spectacularly at Real Madrid and Chelsea. Whilst it would be foolish to write off a man that won the Title just 18 months ago in a canter with Chelsea, his fall from grace has been staggering and hints at something seriously wrong with his methods. Manchester United as a club have been in free-fall since he took over so he has to be cut a bit of slack at rebuilding a club that has looked bereft of all its foundations since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Despite their patchy form, things can start to take a big upswing for Mourinho in the next month or so. United are lucky to only be 6 points off the Premier League pace, with City, Arsenal and Spurs spurning chances to extend that margin to close to double digits over the last few games. United have a soft run of fixtures coming up including the likes of Burnley, Sunderland and Middlesbrough where Mourinho and his team should be able to get back to winning ways. It looks like Mourinho is still searching desperately to find his best team at Old Trafford and they should be a far more polished and formidable outfit after Christmas. Whether they have the quality to win the Title this year is another question altogether, however Mourinho can ill afford to miss the Top 4 and the all important Champions League places. If he fails to do that his "Special One" aura will drift further and further away.