Ed Woodward has been making an increasing number of visits to Manchester United’s training ground over the past two weeks with suggestions from some quarters José Mourinho could be one defeat from the sack.
But sources close to the executive vice-chairman claim the relationship between the two men is stronger than ever. This is apparently supported, among other things, by the fact Mourinho has been signing off recent texts to his superior with “kisses to the twins” in reference to Woodward’s three-year-old children.
United have been insistent through official channels, including the club’s TV station, that there are no rifts and that the players are still performing for the manager, who has received full backing from the board.
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The team’s poor start has included losing two of their three matches for the first time since 1992 and fall to 13th in the table. An increasingly testy Mourinho bristled his way through a press conference after United were defeated 3-0 by Tottenham on Monday, their heaviest home defeat in four years.
Friends of Woodward insist his relationship with Mourinho has not been negatively impacted by lacklustre defeats to Spurs and Brighton. They claim there is no imminent threat to Mourinho’s position even if United lose at Burnley on Sunday. Mourinho signed a two and a half year contract in January.
It is understood Woodward has spoken with the Glazer siblings, the American family who share majority ownership of United, on the phone every day over the past three weeks. This is not a departure from the norm, although they are understood to be upset about the team’s performances.
After United’s dismal showing against Brighton, Woodward remained rooted in his seat at the Amex Stadium and was criticised by Gary Neville. The former United defender said Woodward’s behaviour could be viewed as a “show of dissent”.
Neville added: “I can only describe it as something I don’t want to see the CEO of Manchester United do. At the end of the game, stand up, go and shake the opposition CEO’s hand, tell him well done and that you’ll see him later in the season, smile and be bigger than anything.”
But sources close to Woodward said he had not stood up to shake hands because he did not want to interrupt the celebrations of the Brighton chairman, Tony Bloom, and Bloom’s family.