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Are United already feeling effects of Mourinho's 3rd-season syndrome?

Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA / Getty Images Sport / Getty

First comes the public criticism, then the shaky performances and, ultimately, the sacking. It's the vicious chain reaction that ends with Jose Mourinho on the scrap heap and a club in crisis. Mourinho didn't make it past his third season at either Chelsea or Real Madrid, a worrying trend that now appears to be materializing at Manchester United.

The latest subject of Mourinho's derision is Anthony Martial. Despite taking a leave of absence for the birth of his child, Martial was singled out by the Portuguese manager for his apparent lack of commitment. Prior to that undressing, Mourinho implied Paul Pogba was missing the necessary focus at club level to become a functional team player.

No one was spared on United's preseason tour, not even the youth players who had a rare opportunity to show what they have. Mourinho was only sarcastic about their participation in the International Champions Cup, neglecting the fact that other clubs, including Juventus, were missing as many, if not more, top players.

His power struggle with the board also ratcheted up. Mourinho put public pressure on vice-chairman Ed Woodward to provide the players he had requested, but only three arrived. Business was completed by July. It was confirmation of United's switch to a more continental model, stripping spending powers from the manager to better prepare for the future.

If it feels like United are entering the season under a cloud of doubt, then it's mostly Mourinho's doing. He's once again manufactured a negative environment around a team that actually has some good pieces in place. Romelu Lukaku is still a fantastic striker, Alexis Sanchez has finally had a summer off, and Pogba should have more freedom beside defensive-minded duo Fred and Nemanja Matic. It's on Mourinho to further develop the other promising players in United's ranks - Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and Victor Lindelof chief among them.

The problem is that Mourinho never appears to be happy. There's always something to complain about, always something missing, and never anything wrong with his methods. The deferring of blame has the potential to ruin yet more relationships.

The first breakdown happened at Chelsea. It was September 2007, the very start of his fourth season with the Blues, and Mourinho was at odds with owner Roman Abramovich over their recruitment strategy. In reality, problems were brewing for a while.

His request to sign Samuel Eto'o was dismissed, and he was instead forced to play an aging and out-of-form Andriy Shevchenko. Mourinho challenged Abramovich to sack him, and that's exactly what the Russian billionaire did. Mourinho's bond with Chelsea's senior players remained strong, but he ultimately picked a battle he couldn't win.

History repeated itself during his second spell at Chelsea, ending in the midst of his third campaign in December 2015. This time it was a so-called "palpable discord" between Mourinho and the players that cost the Portuguese his job. Mourinho openly criticized star player Eden Hazard for his poor defensive application and said his work in training was "betrayed" following one final defeat to Leicester City.

His downfall at Madrid was even more dramatic. Accounts of his disputes with senior players were made public by journalists and former 'keeper Jerzy Dudek, painting Mourinho as paranoid and obsessive. He allegedly confronted his players after a match against Barcelona, questioning who had leaked his lineups to the press. His relationship with Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos was particularly fraught. Mourinho was waging a never-ending war against the "mole" amongst his players, Barcelona, and the media. The bunker mentality ended up engulfing him.

Fast-forward to the present and Mourinho's approach remains the same. He has his darlings, taking every opportunity to shower praise on Lukaku and Matic, but also a contingent that he continues to isolate. His constant tug-of-war with Woodward is eerily reminiscent of his back-and-forth with Abramovich, and despite the talent at his disposal, it's obvious he feels the current squad isn't enough.

The Guardian's Daniel Taylor confirmed the growing divide between board and manager, outlining the differences between their philosophies. Woodward reportedly vetoed many of Mourinho's "short-term fixes," unwilling to shell out massive fees for players like Harry Maguire or give into the market's nonsensical ways.

The fact Mourinho has never stayed at a single club for more than three years already seems to be weighing on United's minds.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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