Football: Jose Mourinho snubs press before Ajax clash

Josh Harrop celebrates scoring on his Manchester United debut against Crystal Palace with Axel Tuanzebe. Harrop, 21, was one of four players Jose Mourinho gave their first starts in a United shirt to.
Josh Harrop celebrates scoring on his Manchester United debut against Crystal Palace with Axel Tuanzebe. Harrop, 21, was one of four players Jose Mourinho gave their first starts in a United shirt to.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Manager's antics overshadow bright display of youngest United side in EPL

LONDON • Jose Mourinho refused to talk to the media, including his club's own in-house television station, after Manchester United ended the Premier League campaign with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday.

The United manager had become increasingly angered with sections of the media in recent weeks at coverage of his team's campaign.

With tomorrow's Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm to come, Mourinho could still end his first season at Old Trafford with two major pieces of silverware, after collecting the League Cup.

But United's struggles in the league, and some tedious games particularly at Old Trafford, have seen a growing mood of disquiet, certainly among sections of the press.

Following the Palace win, United players performed a lap of appreciation for supporters, who in turn gave a special ovation to captain Wayne Rooney, who may have played his last game for the club.

But, while the celebrations were going on, Mourinho made his way to a variety of press conferences for television, print and radio, staying a matter of seconds in each case before leaving due to the absence of journalists.

Even MUTV, the most friendly of broadcasters dealing with the club, was not immune from Mourinho's policy as he snapped: "I'm in a final, let me go home, I'm in a final." He reportedly left Old Trafford within 20 minutes of the final whistle.

  • FIGURE IT OUT
     

    22 years 284 days

    Average age of United's starting XI, their youngest in the Premier League. It is the third-youngest starting XI by any side in Premier League history.

    100

    Josh Harrop became the 100th player to score a Premier League goal for United

    7

    United have now finished in each spot from 1st to 7th in an EPL season, the only team to do this. They never finished lower than third under Alex Ferguson, but finished 7th, 4th, 5th and 6th in the past four seasons.

An insight into Mourinho's mindset could be gleaned from his programme notes before the game, when he responded to former Liverpool manager and current TV critic Graeme Souness, who had questioned why the United manager has frequently used the excuse of fatigue for their late season problems.

"I have seen in the football media that certain pundits cannot understand why our players are tired," wrote Mourinho. "A pundit is not honest if they cannot forget their colours or if they try to hide the truth from their audience. It's not my fault if their managerial career was very poor."

Those critics will interpret Mourinho's behaviour as a sign the experienced manager is feeling the pressure ahead of tomorrow's final where victory will guarantee Man United Champions League football next season.

But it also had the effect of detracting from the outstanding performances of a number of his youngsters, with four handed their full league debuts and Mourinho fielding the youngest United line-up in Premier League history, at an average of 22 years and 284 days.

One of those debutants, Josh Harrop, opened the scoring before Paul Pogba added a second and was replaced, along with Jesse Lingard, just before the interval to rest ahead of the final.

Later, with Rooney substituted to receive a standing ovation, Angel Gomes, was brought on in the 87th minute and, at 16 years, 262 days old, became the club's youngest player since David Gaskell in 1956.

It was a game that Harrop, in particular, will never forget thanks to his debut goal which followed a hat-trick he scored for United's under-23s in a victory against Tottenham.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2017, with the headline 'Jose snubs press before Ajax clash'. Print Edition | Subscribe