Football: 'Weak' mentality a painful issue

Manchester United's Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw in action with Watford's Troy Deeney.
Manchester United's Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw in action with Watford's Troy Deeney.PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho criticises Shaw and Smalling for saying they are unfit to play against Swansea

LONDON • Jose Mourinho has questioned the willingness of some of his Manchester United players to play through the pain barrier, with defenders Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling appearing to be among those the manager had in mind when he expressed his frustration and insisted that mentalities would have to change.

Although United beat Swansea City 3-1 on Sunday to win for the first time in five Premier League matches, Mourinho was clearly annoyed that he had to name a makeshift defence in which Ashley Young played at right-back and Matteo Darmian at left-back.

Before the match, the United manager ran through the team news with MUTV and said: "Smalling doesn't feel that he can play 100 per cent with his pain. Luke Shaw told me this morning that he was not in the condition to play, so we had to build a defensive line."

Rather pointedly Mourinho added: "Daley Blind has some problems but he put himself available to be on the bench and to try to help the team, so the people that are here are people that I trust for a difficult match."

Asked about those comments after a game in which Paul Pogba scored and Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted twice - the first was the Premier League's 25,000th goal and the second his 400th club career goal - the Portuguese said: "In every sport at the highest level, you play many times and you are not even 100 per cent.

NO PAIN, NO GAIN

I have a friend who is a big tennis player, he tells me he remembers more the times he played with pain than the times he played without any pain.

To compete you have to go to the limits. For the team you have to do everything.

JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, on his expectations of his players.

"I have a friend who is a big tennis player, he tells me he remembers more the times he played with pain than the times he played without any pain.

"To compete you have to go to the limits. For the team you have to do everything, that is my way of seeing (things)."

There have already been tensions between Mourinho and Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the opening months of the season.

Mkhitaryan has been frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities - and Mourinho likewise by what he felt is a lack of physical intensity relative to some of the Armenian's team-mates.

Shaw is known to have been unhappy at being publicly criticised by the manager after the 3-1 defeat by Watford in September.

Former England striker Alan Shearer supported Mourinho's stance, and argued that the 53-year-old can no longer depend on his players to be "warriors".

"In my experience, very rarely are you ever 100 per cent fit when you go out onto the pitch to play," said Shearer.

"Whether you take anti-inflammatories or whatever, very rarely are you 100 per cent."

But Mourinho has to be careful about criticising his players because his tenures at Real Madrid and Chelsea quickly unravelled after he publicly found fault with his men at the two clubs.

He can ill-afford to lose the support of his dressing room, especially after United's rather pedestrian start to the season.

The Portuguese, though, was full of praise for Ibrahimovic, as he admitted that the striker proved him wrong during his goal-less spell which ended at Swansea.

Mourinho told MUTV: "I used to say that a striker who doesn't score goals and does nothing else is one player less. But a striker that doesn't score goals but does everything else is a very important player for the team.

"He wasn't scoring goals but he was doing everything else. He was working defensively, in the build-up and the second phase of the attack, he was giving assists.

"He was doing so many things that I wasn't worried, but today we needed goals and he got them."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2016, with the headline ''Weak' mentality a painful issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe