Mourinho meltdown? United managers under pressure – and what happened next

As pressure mounts on Jose Mourinho, we look back at five moments Manchester United managers had to react to similar problems.

Louis van Gaal (L), Jose Mourinho (C) and David Moyes   -  Getty Images

Although he claims he only sees 10 per cent of the media coverage, Jose Mourinho will not need anyone to tell him he is under pressure.

The Manchester United manager appears to have the backing of the club, but last week's defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion prompted a huge amount of scrutiny on just where the team is going under his leadership.

An unappealing style of football, disputes with senior players and a turbulent transfer window has resulted in Mourinho facing the most difficult phase of his two years at Old Trafford, even though the Premier League season is only in its third week.

Of course, Mourinho is not the first United boss to face a tough time in the last three decades. His predecessors in the job, even Alex Ferguson, have all had to stand up to mounting criticism in the hope of winning fans back to their cause.

In a bid to predict how Mourinho might respond, we have looked at five of the most famous difficult moments in United's recent history, and what happened next.



How bad was it?

Probably the most famous of managerial sticky spells, at least at United, Ferguson was considered to be one bad result from the sack at the end of the 1980s.

During an 11-game run without a win in the top flight, fan unrest had reached its highest since his appointment in 1986, prompting the infamous banner bemoaning "three years of excuses" to appear inside Old Trafford. Ferguson himself described December 1989 as his "darkest" time at the club.

What happened next?

It is widely considered that Mark Robins' winning goal in an FA Cup clash with Nottingham Forest in January saved Ferguson's job, although he later insisted he always carried the backing of the board.

The league form improved a touch, although it still only finished 13th, but lifting the FA Cup after beating Crystal Palace in the final was a watershed moment in Ferguson's reign.

That said, it was still two years away from its first league title under its most famous modern manager.



How bad was it?

With Chelsea the reigning champion, anti-Glazer sentiments at their strongest and doubts over the decision to spend most of the transfer budget on Michael Carrick, this was a precarious time for United before the season even started. 

Draws with Manchester City, Villarreal and Liverpool and a home loss to Blackburn Rovers did not help; by the time it was thrashed 4-1 by Middlesbrough and lost 1-0 at Lille in back-to-back games in the autumn, serious questions were being asked over Ferguson's suitability to carry on in the job.

What happened next?

In its next game, a 1-0 win over Chelsea added new belief over its title chances. It exited the Champions League at the first hurdle, but its domestic form was much improved, underlined by them losing only three times in the Premier League from late November onwards.

Chelsea won the title again, but United had proved it would not be left in its wake for long. It also claimed the EFL Cup, ensuring the season ended with at least some silverware. And those doubts about Carrick would soon be a thing of the past.



How bad was it?

In the context of our list here, this was not a hugely concerning phase for United. It was, though, enough to prompt questions about trophy chances.

Champion though it was, it ended the previous season with one win and one goal scored in five games, which included a defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup final. It then started 2007-08 with draws against Reading and Portsmouth and a 1-0 derby defeat to Manchester City, leaving it six points behind early pace-setter Liverpool, and voices of dissent began to grow louder.

What happened next?

Well, it was not exactly a bad response. United won 19 from 24 games before the turn of the year, the previously criticised front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez leading the way. It defended its domestic title and won the Champions League for the second time under Ferguson, after a penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea in Moscow.


2013-14: DAVID MOYES

How bad was it?

United beat Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield and thrashed Swansea City 4-1, but a 1-0 loss at Liverpool and a 4-1 hammering by Manchester City was more indicative of what was to come.

United lost four Premier League games in a row in January, two of them at home, and only one twice before the beginning of March. Then came the worst of it: a 2-0 reverse at Olympiacos and 3-0 defeats at home to Liverpool and City, all in the space of a month. It was described by BBC Sport as "a team in disarray, led by a manager struggling horribly to get to grips with his task".

What happened next?

Those humbling losses to its bitterest rivals proved impossible to bounce back from. Big wins over Aston Villa and Newcastle United lifted spirits a little, but a Champions League exit to Bayern Munich ended its trophy hopes before a 2-0 loss at Everton ensured a top-four finish was impossible.

Moyes was gone within 48 hours.


How bad was it?

Mourinho's predecessor was an unpopular figure in his second and final season at the club. An inconsistent start to the campaign led to a nightmarish November and December, in which United went eight games without a win in all competitions, lost four in a row and exited the Champions League.

The nadir was a 2-0 loss to Stoke City, in which captain Wayne Rooney was dropped to the bench and the performance was so bad from the visitor it led to the manager questioning his players' bravery.

Former defender Rio Ferdinand then tweeted to say: "I'm not even surprised... that's what hurts even more."

What happened next?

A run of one defeat in nine, which included a win at Anfield, helped ease some of the pressure, but losses to Southampton and Midtjylland underlined the problems in the side.

With Pep Guardiola's Manchester City move confirmed, Mourinho to United suddenly looked more and more likely. A fifth-place finish in the league eventually led the board to act, with Van Gaal dismissed just two days after winning the FA Cup.

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