Friday 23 March 2018

Jose Mourinho has fired a warning to Premier League rivals

Manchester United's Juan Mata with manager Jose Mourinho after the friendly victory over Wigan. Photo: Martin Rickett
Manchester United's Juan Mata with manager Jose Mourinho after the friendly victory over Wigan. Photo: Martin Rickett

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho won his first game as Manchester United manager yesterday and then warned his Premier League rivals he has wasted no time in putting his stamp on the club.

Mourinho is determined to hit the ground running next season and claimed he saw clear signs of United playing his brand of football during a 2-0 friendly win against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium, his first match since being sacked by Chelsea seven months ago.

Will Keane and Andreas Pereira scored in the second half as Mourinho gave run-outs to 22 players, including new signings Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly, and England left-back Luke Shaw, who made his first appearance since breaking his right leg 10 months ago.

United fly to Shanghai on Tuesday for the start of their pre-season tour of China, where they will face tougher tests against Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City. But Mourinho – who is under pressure to deliver trophies and improve United’s style of play after three troubled seasons under Louis van Gaal and David Moyes – believes the players are adapting quickly to his demands.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (R) congratulates Will Keane

“I am happy because after 10 days of work without many of our players, I could see things, I could see the players start identifying and trying to play my football,” Mourinho said. “Players tend to play the football their managers want them to play, they tend to adapt to it and I could see the players trying to go in the direction I want them to go and doing things I want them to do, from a defensive point of view and an attacking point of view.”

Around 5,500 United fans made the trip to Wigan and Mourinho continued his charm offensive by claiming he had never witnessed support like it for a local pre-season friendly.

“What I found unbelievable was that for the first time in my career the support was like it was a crucial Premier League match,” he said. “It is nice to feel welcome. It is nice to feel that the things I liked in the game they also liked, you could feel from some of their reactions that they liked it.”

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Mourinho reiterated that United’s England trio of Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Chris Smalling would travel to China but not feature in the matches against Dortmund in Shanghai on Friday and City in Beijing three days later. It remains to be seen if United’s other Euro 2016 representatives play in China.

“In China I will play with these [22] guys that have been training for 10 days and the Rooneys and Rashfords and Smallings, these guys are coming to China without training, so I am not going to play them.

“I have two training processes, one for those that are close to [full] condition and one process for the players coming back from their holidays.”

Shaw assured of his United future by boss Mourinho

Shaw had not played since suffering a fractured tibia and fibula against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League last September and Mourinho praised the defender for forgoing a holiday to train and ensure he was in the best condition possible for pre-season.

“When I found Luke at the training ground it was a surprise for me because I thought he couldn’t be ready to train without any type of limitation but he did fantastically in the summer,” Mourinho said.

“He sacrificed his holiday, he stayed in Manchester and was at the training ground every day putting himself in condition. Of course you lose a bit of sharpness and confidence – that is normal – but he is trying hard.”

Mourinho also backed midfielder Mkhitaryan – a £26.3 million signing from Dortmund – to be an instant hit after a promising debut. “He is a top-class player and this is the best stage for him,” the manager said. “We can all see the qualities.” 

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