Wanted: A coach to restore Manchester United to its former status as a major force in European soccer.

It was a task that proved beyond even Jose Mourinho.

United brought an end to Mourinho’s turbulent 21/2-year spell at the storied English club by firing him on Tuesday, an inevitable move that follows a pattern of bitter endings at the Portuguese coach’s recent teams.

“Be careful,” Mourinho said to reporters and photographers through the open window of a car that whisked him away from the city-center hotel where he lived throughout his time at United.

Indeed, these are worrying times for both United, which is arguably at its lowest point since the departure of long-time manager Alex Ferguson in 2013, and Mourinho, whose illustrious coaching career is at a crossroads as critics question whether his abrasive approach, on and off the field, suits modern soccer.

United said it will not hire a permanent replacement for Mourinho until the offseason. The club will appoint a caretaker manager for the remainder of the season in the coming days.

The end for Mourinho at English soccer’s most prestigious club came two days after a 3-1 loss at fierce rival Liverpool, the latest reminder of just how far United has slumped behind the top teams in the Premier League and Europe.

It was a result that left United sixth in the Premier League, 19 points off the lead after 17 games and, perhaps more significantly, 11 points off the top four in the race to secure Champions League qualification for next season. It is United’s worst 17-game start to a league campaign since the 1990-91 season.

“The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future,” United said in a three-line statement released after Mourinho was told of his fate in a face-to-face meeting with executive vice chairman Ed Woodward.

United won two titles in Mourinho’s first season – the English League Cup and the Europa League – but failed to capture a trophy in his second season, although runner-up in the league was its highest finish since Ferguson left.

Mourinho has historically encountered problems in his third season in charge at clubs he has managed, and it was no different at United.

His relationship with Paul Pogba, United’s record signing at $116 million and the marquee arrival in Mourinho’s reign, appeared broken following a spat that started in the offseason.

Pogba, who hasn’t started for United in its last three games, wrote on Instagram “Caption this!” alongside a picture of him smirking in a post published soon after the announcement of Mourinho’s departure. It was quickly deleted.

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