Before we get to the heart of the matter, a reminder that when Jose Mourinho took Manchester United's helm, he got to spend about $180 million on new players, which didn’t include free-transfer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And Man United has the English Premier League’s highest payroll -- its players earning an average of $7.6 million annually.
In fact, Man United’s payroll is the highest in the world, edging out Barcelona, Manchester City and Real Madrid.
So what has Mourinho achieved so far with his well-compensated talent?
Man United has been eliminated from the FA Cup and is out of the Premier League title race, in fifth place, 15 points behind Chelsea.
Fifth place is a big problem, because only the top four teams qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Getting shut out of that show means missing out on $50 million to $100 million in revenue.
The EPL’s fifth-place finisher does qualify for the Europa League, previously known as the UEFA Cup before a 2009 name change.
In 2013, weeks after starting his second stint as Chelsea coach, Mourinho took a dig at his predecessor Rafa Benitez, who as interim coach had led Chelsea to the Europa League title the previous season.
"I don't want to win the Europa League," Mourinho said. "It would be a big disappointment for me. I don't want my players to feel the Europa League is our competition."
Two years later he was still going on about it:
“When I returned, I felt the experience of Chelsea playing Europa League was not good. The Europa League is a different competition (to the Champions League), the Europa League is a different level of competition for a different level of player and a different level of club. It is not good for a big club to go there and win it.”
But when he took over at Man United last summer, the team was headed to Europa League play.
“It [the Europa League] is not a competition that Man United wants,” Mourinho said last September. “It is not one I want or the players but it is a competition where we are and that is the reality.”
But now, the Europa League has become dear to Mourinho, because the winner gets a Champions League berth next season. And Mourinho doesn’t seem to think he can lead his troops to a top four finish. In between a 0-0 tie at home to West Brom on April 1 and a 1-1 tie at home to Everton on Tuesday, Mourinho said:
"I just want to think that against Everton we are going to do what we tried to do (against West Brom), to try to play with our best team and try to win the match.
"And after Everton we go to Sunderland with the same perspective ... then the Europa League comes and I don't know.
"It's possible that you see me play in the Premier League with a team where I'm going to protect the players that I consider fundamental for the Europa League.”
Now Manchester United, which hasn’t been in the top four since Week 4, finds itself four points behind fourth-place Manchester City.
So Mourinho needs the trophy he once derided to save his season. But most remarkable is that Mourinho, with the best-paid 27-player roster in the world, doesn't seem to believe he can lead them to success on two fronts.
Manchester United April Schedule
April 9 at Sunderland EPL
April 13 at Anderlecht Europa League, Quarterfinal, 1st leg
April 16 vs. Chelsea EPL
April 20 vs. Anderlecht Europa League, Quarterfinal, 2nd leg
April 23 at Burnley EPL
April 27 at Manchester City EPL
April 30 vs. Swansea EPL