Jose Mourinho has a definitive view on the Wayne Rooney midfield experiment
Mourinho comes out swinging as he defends his record on playing style and youth development
Published 06/07/2016 | 02:30
Jose Mourinho came out swinging yesterday, with Arsene Wenger, Louis van Gaal and the critics who claim his playing style and record of youth promotion are incompatible with Manchester United's traditions in the crosshairs as he spelt out his vision for putting English football's fallen giant back on top.
Over the course of an entertaining half-hour in Old Trafford's Europa Suite, Mourinho came armed and prepared for his media unveiling as United manager, anticipating the questioning and responding with long, impassioned answers that, while pre-rehearsed, will have struck a chord with supporters who had tired of the defeatist, negative rhetoric of his predecessors, Van Gaal and David Moyes.
It was the bullish, business-like and occasionally inflammatory address of a man impatient for success.
Van Gaal had claimed expectations were too high at United, while Moyes had suggested the club should aspire to be like rivals Manchester City, messages that were as dimly received by fans as the leaden football both managers played.
Mourinho, by contrast, sought to re-set the bar while tackling claims his football is not adventurous enough for United tastes.
"I know the responsibility, the expectation," he said. "At the same time I know the legacy, I know the history of this club, I know what the fans expect from me.
"This challenge doesn't make me nervous because my history in the last 10 years or more was always to live with big clubs' expectations. I can say that I am where I want to be.
"I can anticipate that any one of you will come later with a question about style of play. I can anticipate by saying you can win a couple of matches without playing well but you cannot win competitions without playing well.
"Playing well is scoring more goals than the opponents, conceding less. It is making your fans proud because you give absolutely everything. It is an aggressive approach by myself. I want everything. Of course we are not going to get everything but we want to."
PROVING A POINT
Mourinho accepted that his final season at Chelsea was a "disaster" after being sacked with the club in 16th position in the Premier League.
But he reminded his audience that he was a championship winner just 14 months ago at Stamford Bridge and that some of his rivals had gone more than a decade since last lifting the title - another pointed dig at Wenger, his long-time adversary. Arsenal last won the title in 2003/04.
"There are some managers that the last time they won a title was ten years ago," he said. "The last time I won a title was one year ago, not ten years ago or 15 years ago, so if I have a lot to prove, imagine the others.
"I feel I have to prove not to the others but to myself. It is my nature. I would never be able to work without success."
There was also a veiled criticism of his predecessor Van Gaal, who talked frequently about the importance of his "philosophy" and regarded last season as a success because of the club's FA Cup triumph, despite the club missing out on the Champions League.
Mourinho took an alternative view.
"I was never very good playing with the words or hiding behind words and philosophies," he said. "I was always much more aggressive in my approach with the risks that obviously can bring.
"I could approach this job in a defensive point of view by saying, 'Yes, the last three years the best we did was fourth, the best we did was FA Cup.' I could go into that side, but I can't go.
"I don't want the players to think we have to do better. What is better? To finish fourth? To finish fourth is not the aim."
PROMOTING YOUNG PLAYERS
One of the most frequent criticisms directed at Mourinho is his perceived poor record on youth development, an area of particular relevance given United's rich history of promoting from within.
Anticipating an inquisition on the subject, the Portuguese brandished a piece of paper listing the names of 49 "young players I promoted to the first team from academies" at Benfica, Porto, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea.
He repeated the number 49 six more times for dramatic effect. At one point, he offered to read out every name and by the end was about to distribute the sheet from a notebook before one hapless reporter knocked over a glass of water and rendered it illegible.
When a re-written list was later circulated, though, some of the inclusions raised eyebrows and suggested Mourinho was trying to massage the figures.
Casemiro, for example, had played over 100 games for Sao Paulo before signing for Real for £10m after an initial loan.
The list United distributed actually featured a further six names, including Arjen Robben, whom Chelsea paid £12m for in 2004, by which point he had already made 127 appearances in the Dutch league.
The alarm bells will be ringing for the United and England captain, whom Mourinho tried to sign at Chelsea three years ago.
Van Gaal and Roy Hodgson had converted Rooney into a central midfielder but Mourinho insisted he had no intention of playing him there while conceding that "maybe he is not a striker any more".
"With me he will never be a No 6, never playing 50 metres away from the goal," he said.
"You can tell me his pass is amazing, yes his pass is amazing, but my pass is also amazing without pressure.
"For me he will be a 9, a 10, a nine and a half but not a 6, not even an 8. he will never be that."
Mourinho was more effusive about the prospect of an attacking partnership between teenage sensation Marcus Rashford and ageing superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"Our two strikers are exactly in the perfect age, because 18 is not the perfect age, 34 is not. So I think they can be an amazing complement for each other."
THE TEAM AND TRANSFERS
Mourinho was adamant he wanted to sign "specialists" and had little interest in "multi-functional players" while as good as confirming that a deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to become his third signing was done, even if he did not name the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.
Yet he insisted he would not "breathe" in the transfer market until he had secured his fourth and final target. That is thought to be Paul Pogba, who left United for Juventus in 2012.
Nonetheless, Mourinho claimed the club would not be scrambling for players on transfer deadline day, as they have in recent seasons.
Mourinho believes it will be counter-productive obsessing about Manchester City manager Guardiola, with whom he had a toxic rivalry in Spain, when the Premier League presents challenges on so many fronts, as evidenced by Leicester City's title success last season.
"It is over, the time where you say they (smaller clubs) will collapse in December, in this moment, that collapse word, Leicester, they killed it," he said.
"To speak about one manager, one club, one enemy, I hate the word in football and in life. I don't think it is right in this country.
"It is one thing to be a in a two-horse race like it was when I was in Spain or in Italy when it was three teams fighting for the title. Then that kind of approach makes sense."
Mourinho said Giggs chose to leave United after 29 years because "the job Ryan wanted is the job the club decided to give me" and refused to accept any responsibility for the Welshman's departure.
"Ryan wanted to be Manchester United manager and the owners and Mr Woodward decided to give the job to me.
"For many of us, we start as assistant coaches and for many of us, arrives the moment we make a decision. For Ryan it is not easy to go the step from assistant to manager, it is the step to leave his house of 29 years.
"But he was brave, he is honest, so good luck and if one day he wants to come back when I am here, I will never say no.
"If one day the club offers him the chance to be manager, I think it will something natural and the consequence of his success in his career." (© Daily Telegraph, London)