Sunday 13 October 2019

Mourinho loses power battle as United board opt against defensive signings

United board refuse to sign defender and tell manager to make most of what he has

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Andreas Gebert/Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Andreas Gebert/Reuters

Jason Burt

Jose Mourinho was told by Manchester United that the club would only sign a world-class defender of the calibre of Real Madrid's World Cup winner Raphael Varane rather than compromise with a lesser light, despite the manager's demands.

United would have paid up to £100m (€111m) for Varane but the Frenchman was never available and as the options were put to them over the course of a transfer window there were too many good reasons to ignore them.

It means they go into their first Premier League game of the season against Leicester City at Old Trafford tonight without signing the centre-back Mourinho (right) asked for during pre-season.

The club believe they have delivered over the course of the last two windows on the agreed targets with around £73m invested this window in Fred, Diogo Dalot and goalkeeper Lee Grant, as well £35m for Alexis Sanchez in January.

It was around five hours before deadline that United were linked with Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin, the club cited as having made an approach for the Uruguayan.

In reality an intermediary had contacted United a few days earlier asking whether they would be interested in the experienced 32-year-old. United said they were happy to be kept informed.

The next and final conversation was the intermediary telling United that Godin had signed a new contract.

Yerry Mina was offered by Barcelona to United and a number of other clubs before the World Cup for €11m in an attempt by the Spanish champions to get their money back on a player they signed in January.

After the finals it was not the price being quoted for Mina but the structure of the agents' fees being proposed that made the Old Trafford club uncomfortable.

Mina was regarded by United as far off the level that they wanted in a centre-back and there were concerns about his all-round game.

The offer of signing Jerome Boateng, the 29-year-old Bayern Munich defender, was the easiest to reject. By United's calculations he had simply missed too much football through injury over the last three years - playing no more than 19 league games in each season.

Harry Maguire was a genuine target, and although no progress was ever made with Leicester, United are still admirers of the England player. There was no offer made for Toby Alderweireld at Tottenham.

How Mourinho reacts from now will be dictated to some extent by results, but the key objectives at the turn of the year have all been fulfilled as far as the club are concerned.

The signing of Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk to give energy to the midfield was a long-term project, with serious negotiations starting back in February. Signing Alexis Sanchez when he became available was another.

Mourinho wanted a third choice home-grown eligible goalkeeper and Lee Grant was signed.

The United manager also wanted Marouane Fellaini re-signed on a new contract.

The centre-back position didn’t become an issue until this summer and since then the club’s hierarchy  have felt that the options open to them have not warranted the investment required.


Internally, the greatest frustration for Mourinho has been waiting for the return of those players who had the longest World Cup campaigns.

Paul Pogba, Ashley Young, Fellaini and Jesse Lingard may yet be involved against Leicester tonight.

“If they feel they can help us, 20 minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour. I’d prefer to look to the bench and to have them rather than to have 16-year-old boys without experience and without the power to be Premier Leagues players directly,” said Mourinho. “I’d prefer to have them even if they are not top, top, top (in terms of fitness).”

There was no question of Pogba being allowed to leave and there remains great support for Anthony Martial at the club, with every inquiry about him over the summer being met with a firm refusal.

Having left the club’s United States tour to attend the birth of his child, the French forward will now “start again”, Mourinho said, with pre-season training.

The Portuguese went some way to countering suggestions he is unhappy with his squad at his pre-match press conference.

“I have my players and I like my players,” Mourinho said. “I like to work with my players.

“A lie repeated 1,000 times is still a lie, but the perception of people is that it’s true. When you repeat 1,000 times that my relationship with my players is not good, it’s a lie, repeated 1,000 times.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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