Background shenanigans, disjointed displays and poor results have put Old Trafford in the eye of a storm, but Tuesday’s Champions League tie offered the chance to divert some of the mounting focus.
Yet United’s worst start to a league campaign in 29 years would be compounded by a disappointing 0-0 draw against a Valencia side with just one LaLiga win to their name this season, leading Mourinho’s men to be booed at the final whistle.
This was the fourth straight match in all competitions that the Portuguese’s side had failed to win, meaning scrutiny will only intensify ahead of Saturday’s Premier League visit of Newcastle.
David Beckham and Gary Neville were among a number of United greats in the stands on a night that had started with their former team-mate Paul Scholes castigating “embarrassing” manager Mourinho.
The sense of farce was added to by United’s inexplicable underestimation of Manchester’s rush-hour traffic, leading to their late arrival and forcing kick-off to be delayed by five minutes.
When things belatedly got under way, Mourinho’s side struggled to stamp their authority on their first Champions League home match since Sevilla inflicted a shock defeat in March.
Valencia attempted to replicate their countrymen’s heroics at Old Trafford, where the home faithful began chants of “attack, attack, attack” early in the second half and would then cheer the substitution of Alexis Sanchez.
Valencia goalkeeper Neto denied Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku as United pushed late on, with Marcus Rashford hitting the bar as the players showed the hunger Mourinho called for.
Former United midfielder Paul Scholes has labelled Mourinho an embarrassment – and is surprised the Portuguese was not sacked following Saturday’s defeat at West Ham.
Scholes won some 11 Premier League titles as well as the Champions League twice under Sir Alex Ferguson, including the Treble in 1999.
The 43-year-old former England international has been a stern critic of Mourinho, who in turn has hit back at the one-time United stalwart.
On Tuesday night, Scholes used his pundit role during BT Sport’s build-up for the Valencia match to launch another tirade at the under-fire United manager.
“I am sat here actually surprised he survived after Saturday, the performance was that bad,” Scholes said on BT Sport.
“He’s coming out in press conferences and constantly having a go at players, he is having a go at people above him because he’s not getting what he wants.
“I think his mouth is probably out of control and I think he is embarrassing the club.”
Elsewhere holders a weakened Real Madrid lost 1-0 to CSKA in Moscow after a second-minute blunder by Toni Kroos. They are without a win or a goal in three games even though the Russian side had veteran keeper Igor Akinfeev was sent off for a second yellow card seconds before the final whistle.
CSKA got off to a brisk start and opened the scoring after two minutes when Croatian winger Nikola Vlasic, on loan from Premier League Everton, latched on to Kroos’s poor backpass and slotted home. It was Vlasic’s second goal in as many games in this season’s Champions League.
Coach Julen Lopetegui said later: “The quick goal helped them but we didn’t take our chances. We need to create scoring chances, I’m sure that sooner or later we will start scoring,” added Lopetegui when asked about their recent struggles in front of goal.”
Lopetegui decided to start with FIFA Player of the Year Luka Modric on the bench, while other first-team regulars, such as Wales forward Gareth Bale and Spanish centre back Sergio Ramos, were also absent. Brazil fullback Marcelo and midfielder Isco were ruled out before the game.
Real, who have won the last three Champions League titles, suffered another injury worry before halftime when Dani Carvajal had to be replaced by Alvaro Odriozola.