Tuesday 11 December 2018

Mourinho blasts United squad in 12-minute rant

Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring against Sevilla. The Belgium striker is one of the few Manchester United
players to have performed consistently this season, according to Jose Mourinho. Photo: Getty
Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring against Sevilla. The Belgium striker is one of the few Manchester United players to have performed consistently this season, according to Jose Mourinho. Photo: Getty

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho has told his Manchester United players to "grow up" as he took fire at his under-performing squad and claimed they face a serious challenge to stop Manchester City from dominating if their rivals keep spending.

Reading from a page of prepared notes in an extraordinary rant that drew comparisons with Rafael Benitez's infamous "facts" press conference as Liverpool manager in 2009, Mourinho launched an impassioned defence of his reign in the wake of Tuesday's humiliating Champions League exit to Sevilla and insisted he would not walk away.

Over the course of one remarkable 12-and-a-half-minute answer, Mourinho catalogued United's failures - or what he termed "football heritage" - in Europe since their last appearance in the Champions League final in 2011 and also listed their struggles domestically, compared to City, since the club's last Premier League title success in 2013 before declaring:

l Midfielder Nemanja Matic and striker Romelu Lukaku were the only players who had delivered consistently all season and that "many Sevilla players" would walk into his United side.

l The challenge of trying to topple City was similar to the task he faced overhauling Barcelona with Real Madrid but warned at the Bernabeu he possessed "a nucleus of players of a really high level".

l His squad must "grow up" and match the "high expectations" of fans.

l United could remain "side by side" with City if their rivals stop spending but otherwise City will be "difficult" to catch.

l Ed Woodward, United's executive vice-chairman, was "on exactly the same page" and recognised the huge job at hand and need to spend.

Debacle

"I told [before Sevilla] we are not one of the top teams, not one of the favourites to win [the Champions League]," the United manager said ahead of tonight's FA Cup quarter-final against Brighton and Hove Albion, which has assumed even greater importance in the week of the Sevilla debacle.

"I cannot tell you with different words while I am still in competition. I cannot be in competition, go there and say, 'We have no chance'. I couldn't tell you that.

"We went out to a side that's more successful than Manchester United in [the] last seven years in Europe. Do you think they didn't have any players who could play in my team? In Sevilla, there are many players who would play in my team. So the fans, they read what people write, they listen to what people say. The people with a lot of ideas I used to call them ideologists or idiots - they can be both.

"You cannot expect me to say, 'This and that player, they have to do better'. I prefer to say that Matic and Lukaku are performing at a high level since day one until the last match. I cannot tell you the ones that are not performing.

"The fans have to be sad with being out and the players have to learn how to cope with that level of expectation and that level of pressure.

"They have to survive and when they survive they become stronger. An easy life, and the fans not upset, and no critics, that's not good. If you want to make a real top team with top mentality, you need to grow up and the best way is to have this kind of feeling.

"I don't want the fans to have low expectations, I want the fans to have high expectations because I want the players to have expectations, too."

Asked if the challenge to haul back City, whom they trail by 16 points in the Premier League, was bigger than the one he faced with Real - whom he led to beat Barcelona to the Spanish title in his second season - Mourinho said: "Probably similar, but obviously Real Madrid had the nucleus of players of a really high level, and because it's not easy for me to speak about my players [at United], it's easy to speak about the players who are not mine anymore.

"You see, for example, where are the players that don't play in Real Madrid now and left the club to play, or because the club didn't want to keep them? [Raul] Albiol, [Jose] Callejon, they are top players for Napoli.

"The United players that left the club last season? See where they play, how they play, if they play. If the clubs who are in a better situation than us stop investing and we invest, we are side by side. If they keep investing the same or more than us, it's difficult. It's as simple as that. It's difficult."

Concerns

Despite his obvious concerns about the threat of City and United's prospects of competing with Europe's other best sides such as Real, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Mourinho insisted he was up for the challenge.

"I'm always confident," he said. "I won the Champions League with Inter [Milan]. I did not win the Champions League with Real Madrid or Barcelona, or with Ronaldo or Messi. I never played with Messi and when I was Ronaldo's manager we didn't manage to win the Champions League. We can and we'll fight for it again, no doubts.

"There is a quote that I like, 'In every wall there is a door'. I am not going to run away or disappear or cry because I heard a few boos.

"The amazing feeling for me is that I am exactly on the same page as the owners, as Mr Woodward, Mr [Richard] Arnold [the group managing director].

"We agree on everything - on the investments, that we have what we have, the investments that we are going to do will be season after season. We are exactly on the same page, so life is good. I have an amazing job to do."

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Telegraph.co.uk

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