Sport Premier League

Sunday 18 February 2018

Man United stars left 'baffled' by Jose Mourinho questioning their commitment

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho

John Percy

Jose Mourinho's latest post-match comments are under scrutiny after it emerged that Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw have been playing this season with the aid of pain-killing injections.

Smalling's and Shaw's fitness and commitment appeared to be questioned by Mourinho after Manchester United's 3-1 victory at Swansea but now it can be revealed that both players have been making themselves available this season despite battling against injury.

Mourinho claimed that Shaw, who has only just returned from a serious double leg break, had pulled out of the Swansea game only hours before kick-off, but it is believed the 21-year-old did not even travel to South Wales with the squad and has told team-mates he is "baffled" by his manager's comments.

And Mourinho's insistence that "for the team, you have to do anything", appears to contradict his comments on Smalling after the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea last month, when the centre-half played at Stamford Bridge with a foot problem.

Smalling has not played for United since October 23 and is understood to have been struggling with the injury for much of this campaign.

Mourinho's controversial remarks have only served to highlight his strange relationship with some of his players, following similar episodes involving Shaw, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Chris Smalling. Photo: Getty Images
Chris Smalling. Photo: Getty Images

There have been suggestions that players have been left disillusioned by his approach in the dressing-room and in training sessions, expecting a more 'hands on' style which has not been forthcoming so far.

Though United recorded their first win in five Premier League games, after two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a spectacular strike from world record signing Paul Pogba, Mourinho still opted to question the willingness of players to put their bodies on the line.

He said: "There is a difference between the brave, who want to play at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference.

"If I were to speak with the many great football people of this team, they will say they played many times without being 100pc.

"We have players on the pitch with problems. In every sport, how many times do you play and you're not 100pc?"

Yet, after the defeat at Chelsea in October, with stand-in skipper Smalling arguably culpable for all the goals, Mourinho revealed it was remarkable that the 26-year-old even played at all.

He said: "He was phenomenal to play against Chelsea with such a difficult physical situation for him. He couldn't do it two days later against (Manchester) City. There was no chance."

Shaw only returned to first-team duty this season after suffering a horrific injury in a Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven last September.

He has made only six league starts this season but was targeted by Mourinho after the defeat at Watford in September, with the Portuguese accusing him of playing out of position.

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