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Jose Mourinho tells 'fragile' Man United players to develop a winning mentality or risk losing his trust


Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho celebrates winning the Europa League

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho celebrates winning the Europa League

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho celebrates winning the Europa League

Jose Mourinho has challenged the “fragile” members of Manchester United’s squad to develop a winner’s mentality after admitting they risk losing his trust amid his persistent struggles to understand players who do not share his own fierce will to win.

The United manager said his biggest failing revolved around his difficulties working with players who have “a different mentality to what I have” and that he has to lean on his assistants to try to coax the best out of such players.

Mourinho cited Marcus Rashford as having the sort of mentality he relishes working with, but in pointed reference to the likes of Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling, whom he battled with throughout the campaign, the Portuguese conceded that certain players can lose their appeal to him.

Speaking to Rio Ferdinand in a revealing BT Sport documentary, Old Trafford Uncovered – with Jose Mourinho, that was filmed before United’s Europa League final win over Ajax, Mourinho said: “For me what’s more difficult [as a manager] is the fragile mentality.

“I think it’s probably my weakness as a manager, that it’s difficult for me to understand people with a different mentality to what I have. It’s difficult to understand so it takes me time to understand and sometimes I’m not able to feel attracted again [to the player].

“Sometimes I ask my assistants to help me on that because maybe they have a different profile to me. Because for me I want to be in love with the player with this character, with this personality and that kid Marcus is the best example of it, especially in this club.”

Mourinho’s remarks are likely to increase the pressure on Shaw and Smalling, both of whom face uncertain futures at Old Trafford, as well as Martial and even Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of next season.

Mourinho has made several references this season to the need for Martial and Mkhitaryan to toughen up mentally and deliver more consistently on their talents and used England striker Rashford, still only 19, as an example of the attitude and mentality he is looking for.

United’s Europa League success guaranteed qualification for next season’s Champions League and earned the club a third trophy after the League Cup and Community Shield but Mourinho believes players must raise their game next term.

“As players, you have to have that responsibility every day and it’s something my boys have to learn,” Mourinho said. “Some of them they can win a big match. What I think they can’t do is win it and win it and win it and cope with that intensity, especially that mental intensity, the focus, the concentration, the responsibility, the determination. This is something you only learn when you are at the highest level.

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“I try to do it [teach and transfer it] in relation to the personality of the players. For example, what I love about this kid Marcus is he copes with the pressure. I can press him, I can be very demanding with him, he’s the kind of kid that when the training session finishes it doesn’t finish for him. He wants more. He lives for football.

“He was, of course, a tornado, when he arrived last season without pressure. No responsibility. And this season when the pressure was on him, when he was not scoring goals for one, two, three, four months, he coped with that pressure. This is the kind of character I like. I like to squeeze the player and the player to cope with it and react to it.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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