LONDON • Jose Mourinho has admitted some Manchester United players have taken longer to emerge from their comfort zone than he expected when he was appointed manager.
When he took over last summer, the Portuguese said United had to aim to become Premier league champions this season. His side are now sixth, 17 points behind Chelsea with a game in hand, so that possibility appears remote.
However, he said he wanted to change the mentality of his squad and force some of them to move away from a culture where they were not expected to win every match.
Although he did not name Louis van Gaal, Mourinho implied this was the culture allowed by his predecessor.
He said: "I told you in the first press conference, or second, that I was speaking about being champions because I don't think there is another position a manager can have at this club.
"It would be easy for me to say we want to play better, we want to improve the quality of the game, we want to improve the relationship between the players and the fans."
In spite of this, not all of his squad responded quickly.
"I didn't know the players very well," Mourinho said. "I didn't know that some players need time to live with this, because it must be part of your natural habitat. Play to win, (it's your) responsibility to win, cope with the pressure to win. This is something that has to belong to your natural habitat. For some guys it wasn't.
"They also need that time to go out of their comfort zone or a zone where they are protected that we assume the objective is not to win - that also takes time."
Mourinho has discussed this with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and United's proprietors.
Nevertheless, he wants his misfiring stars to put a smile back on his face by blitzing troubled champions Leicester today.
Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks as his side delivered one punchless display after another. They are unbeaten in 14 league games, but seven of those have ended in draws, including the last three.
He knows it is essential for his team to find a significantly sharper cutting edge if they are to qualify for the Champions League.
"I have to agree that we don't score enough goals and some of our players from these attacking, creative positions they could - they should - score more goals," he said.
Given United's recent problems and Leicester's current predicament, today's clash offers an opportunity for one team to get back on track while plunging the losers into deep despair.
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LEICESTER V MANCHESTER UNITED
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