United went from bad to worse this weekend. They certainly don't look like a team about to surge back into form and make a run into the top four of the Premier League.
But bringing in Jose Mourinho? That is absolutely not the answer.
Mourinho's history in the game tells you all you need to know: he's a man who needs control, and who flounders in situations when he has lost it. And that's what happened at Chelsea: with the squad getting away from him, he was unable to turn it round.
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So to suggest that he could walk in to a crisis situation at United and turn it around is absurd. That's something he's never done in his career, and this really wouldn't be the time to start. He's lost a huge amount of respect in the game, and I suspect the players at United hate the idea of him taking over. Frankly, given how unhappy the players are right now, they'd be better off bringing in Tim Sherwood between now and the end of the season: someone to soft soap the players, given them a bit of a cuddle, get them feeling good about themselves once again.
Sadly, as we've seen with Tim, those sorts of managers don't work long term. And United need to start thinking about the long term as soon as possible, because if not they face the ultimate danger: turning into the new Liverpool.
Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho
Image credit: Reuters
Yes, United's priority right now is grabbing a spot in Europe next season - even if it's Europa League that'll be far better than nothing, because while the fans might not buy into it I can tell you that the players still love playing that sort of competition, just like they love playing the FA Cup and the League Cup. Footballers are in the game to win medals, and while a Champions League might be preferable, they're still going to be thrilled with any of the others on offer. Just being in the hunt for glory will make a huge difference to morale in the changing room.
But while that is the goal for right now, the bigger goal is far more serious: United need to do everything they can to make sure that this black hole they're in right now is a temporary blip, and not the sort of descent into mediocrity that Liverpool have suffered.
They absolutely have to guard against that - and the next manager to come in must be appointed with that target clearly in focus.
Ryan Giggs isn't the answer, unfortunately - he's a genuine legend as a player, but just as Bryan Robson found out, that alone isn't enough to make you a legend as a manager. He might get there one day, but Ryan needs to go and prove himself elsewhere, and learn his craft away from Old Trafford.
None of the other available big name managers currently out of work would fit the bill either. You could give someone like Fabio Capello a call, but he'd have all the same problems that Van Gaal has faced: he's too old school, he doesn't understand the modern game and how players need to be handled today.
There are plenty of guys out there who do - Diego Simeone, say, or Mauricio Pochettino - but none of them is going to leave at this stage of the season. There is just nobody out there who could come in, lift the dressing room, and then go on to build a brighter future for United.
Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone reacts during a press conference
Image credit: Reuters
So why get in someone else as a temporary measure? When you think about it, it's extraordinary that anybody is really surprised that United have struggled. It was always going to happen, after a figure like Sir Alex Ferguson left.
And while the Glazers and Ed Woodward have tried to ease the transition by looking to similar characters - a plain-speaking Scot, followed by an old-school disciplinarian - they now need to recognise that the old-fashioned approach won't work any more.
Under that category, I absolutely include Mourinho. Simeone and Jurgen Klopp have shown how a modern manager can combine inspiring a team with the sort of attractive football that fans love. That's how you build a brand, and building a brand - like it or not - is what modern top flight clubs are about these days.
Mourinho isn't capable of doing that. The great apology for him is that he wins games - but merely winning isn't reason enough to appoint a manager when you've got someone like Klopp up the road putting on such lavish entertainment. It's the entertainment above all that fans love, that will underpin why it's fun and exciting to follow a club; Mourinho will not do that for United. And while he's built successful teams in the past, I reckon his little black book must be a lot thinner than it was a few years ago. Who would want to come and play for him now, given the mess he left at Chelsea?
So for right now, as disappointing as the side are under Van Gaal, the right man isn't yet available to move things on. United need to just suck it up - and then they need to get it right next time by calling on a young, visionary manager; one brave enough to call time on the superstars who are no longer pulling their weight, and bright enough to realise that the likes of Andreas Pereira and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have earned the right to have a run in the first time, while Memphis Depay needs to be taken out of the firing line before he loses his head for good.
United need a man who can build the club afresh, drawing on youth and vigour rather than turgid pragmatism. The right men are out there, but until the time is right for one of them to come in and take over, United are better off sticking with the devil they know.
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