LONDON • Jose Mourinho has appeared to suggest Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become "a puppet" at Manchester United, with the former manager alluding to certain players having too much power.
After succeeding the sacked Portuguese, initially on an interim basis in December, Solskjaer won over his doubters with a run of 14 victories in 19 matches.
However, his promising start was undone after the Red Devils lost six of their 10 games, following the decision to reward him with a three-year contract at the end of March.
But Mourinho insisted he had not been surprised by their struggles, which culminated with the home Premier League defeat by relegated Cardiff on the final day of the term, before taking a thinly veiled swipe at the "nice guy" who replaced him.
He told French daily L'Equipe: "Generally, the players can feel a certain erosion, especially when you ask a lot of them.
"When I say that the second season (when United finished second behind Manchester City in May 2018) was fantastic, I say it because the potential and the objectives were met.
"I really squeezed, like an orange, to achieve them. When you have a very professional group of players who are ambitious, hard-working and talented, at a structured club, you don't have that erosion.
"When you are almost alone, in that you don't have the support of the club close to you, while certain players go somewhat against the coach, who is the nice guy?
"I don't want to be the nice guy, because the nice guy, after three months, is a puppet and that doesn't end well.
NICE GUYS FINISH LAST
When you are almost alone, in that you don't have the support of the club close to you, while certain players go somewhat against the coach, who is the nice guy? I don't want to be the nice guy, because the nice guy, after three months, is a puppet and that doesn't end well.
JOSE MOURINHO, on his experience as United manager and that his successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is facing similar problems.
"I said nine or 10 months ago that after winning eight championships, finishing second with United may have been my greatest achievement. Now people understand.
"About United, I want to say only two things - one is that time has spoken. Two is that the problems are still there."
Having taken United to sixth place, Solskjaer has acknowledged it could take some time before the team can challenge for the title again. They also face a challenge to persuade some of their transfer targets to commit to a season of Europa League football.
United do not appear close to signing any players at the moment, and Solskjaer has identified "a certain kind of attitude" he wants from new additions.
He told the club's official app yesterday: "You have got to have the qualities and our fans want to see exciting players.
"It's always been in our culture. You've to have that work ethic and we're trying to find the right ones."
There are also doubts over the future of Paul Pogba, whom Mourinho frequently clashed with.
"The problems are there (at the club), I only say that I cannot say yes when you ask if Paul was the only one responsible," the Portuguese added.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON