After Everton’s loss to Manchester City, I felt that something had become painfully clear — the Toffees had run out of time to accept moral victories. “Close but not quite” has been the story too frequently for Everton this season, and the result is that the club sits outside the top six, with a frenetic fracas likely waiting to break out for sixth place in the Premier League.
Well, Manchester United went and made that point all the more pressing today by firing Every Negative Human Emotion Personified — Jose Mourinho.
Say what you will about the Portuguese manager’s resume (I don’t think it’s as impressive as it looks on paper, but that’s another story), he was very clearly bringing a historic club down with his pettiness, whining, and refusal to play his most talented players.
It’s still unclear who United’s interim manager will be, much less who the long-term answer is — and when the new long-term manager will take over. But, any nondescript interim manager choice (see: Carrick, Michael) will be an upgrade over Mourinho, whose influence had poisoned the United locker room and alienated his top players.
Everton currently sits two points behind Manchester United in the table for sixth place, and that was with Mourinho seemingly actively sabotaging his own team’s chances.
Now, regardless of manager, United still has some huge squad issues. Everton’s defense is clearly superior to United’s — any of Michael Keane, Kurt Zouma, Yerry Mina, Seamus Coleman, or Lucas Digne would probably walk directly into United’s first XI.
The Red Devils have perhaps the best midfielder in the world in Paul Pogba, but Gylfi Sigurdsson, Andre Gomes, and Idrissa Gueye would all be upgrades to the rest of United’s midfield core as well.
So make no mistake, Everton is still more than capable of finishing the season ahead of Manchester United and breaking up the traditional top six. But with Mourinho gone, the single biggest non-roster cause for their struggles has vanished into the night, and you’d have to suspect that the Red Devils will be better for the balance of this season because of it.
That leaves Everton under even more pressure than when the week began. United’s holiday period fixture is a walk in the park — at Cardiff City, home against Huddersfield United and Bournemouth, and at Newcastle United — meaning they were likely to pick up several points even before they fired everyone’s least favorite pre-conversion Grinch.
If the Toffees can’t turn around the recent poor results, by 2019, they could be looking at a big gap between their position and where they want to be. The pressure, for Marco Silva, his players, and Everton Football Club, is as sizable as ever as what could be a season-defining two week stretch approaches.