José Mourinho has been Manchester United manager for five competitive matches, six if you count the Community Shield, and he has already openly criticised some of his players.
Ahead of Thursday night’s fixture with Dutch club Feyenoord, the Portuguese also questioned the club’s desire to succeed in the Europa League as he finalised preparations to participate in Uefa’s second tier club tournament.
“This is not a competition that Manchester United wants. It is not a competition I want, it is not a competition the players want. But it is a competition where we are and that’s the reality. We have to look to the competition with respect. We want to win it and that is the way we will approach it.”
“It’s true that is more difficult to win the Premier League when you are playing in the Europa League. It would be better if we had the privilege of playing on a Monday after a Thursday night game to have one more day but we haven’t been given that privilege and, in fact, the gift we have been given is to play Liverpool on the Monday before not the Monday after.”
Mourinho, of course, has never been shy when it comes to stirring the detritus or publicly dressing down his players but it usually comes as a result of previous conflict or during his fabled ‘cursed’ third season at a club. However, the timing of this display of indifference towards the Europa League is baffling, particularly when you consider he’s coming off the back of a loss to his most intense rival Pep Guardiola in the Manchester derby.
Mourinho has lost 13 of his last 31 games as a manager. Good job he's a pretty easy-going chilled sort of bloke or that might start to sting
— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) September 15, 2016
Mourinho didn’t hold back with his comments after that derby day loss either, openly admitting he felt let down by some of his players. This could have been construed as a thinly veiled attempt to deflect from his abysmally poor head-to-head record with Guardiola. The pair met 11 time during their respective tenures in La Liga, the Red Devils boss taking all three points just twice; there were four draws with Guardiola winning the remaining five. No one grinds Mourinho’s gears quite like the Spaniard.
“I had two or three players in the first half that, if I know what is going to happen, I don’t play them. But this is football and sometimes players disappoint managers. It’s my fault because I’m the manager and it’s always my fault because it’s my choice.”
“I think in the first half they were much better than us. We started the game bad, with some players really below their normal level in terms of their concentration. The second half was completely different. We were in control, we were much more dangerous and we had chances to equalise and who knows what would have happened.”
This type of behaviour is by no means out of character for Mourinho, the timing of it certainly is. The Special One usually reserves his most openly vitriolic attacks for when things are spiralling out of his control. Last season at Chelsea he openly lambasted several players but by that time the wheels had already come off the Blues’ title defence. When Mourinho is backed into a corner with no way out, the knives are sunk into backs and the digits beeline for retinas.
Taking that into consideration it’s worrying for United fans this sort of behaviour has started so soon. Mourinho uses conflict to resolve situations that may not be the best course of action for a squad largely bereft of confidence and moral after three turgid seasons.
Stephen Vaughan, Pundit Arena