Wednesday 22 November 2017

Revealed: Jose Mourinho snubbed Mark Hughes twice following Manchester United's draw with Stoke

Stoke manager Mark Hughes and Manchester United manager. Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images
Stoke manager Mark Hughes and Manchester United manager. Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

Jim White

Mark Hughes made not just one but two unsuccessful attempts to shake hands with Jose Mourinho after this spiky encounter on Saturday - even pursuing the Manchester United manager to the dressing room, it has been revealed.

United had let it be known the initial snub had occurred because the Stoke City manager had shoved his counterpart in the chest, before swearing at him and calling for his dismissal. Mourinho even walked out of a TV interview when asked for more details.

Last night Stoke said that Hughes had later attempted a reconciliation outside the United dressing room. This second attempted handshake was again rebuffed. It was just the latest handshake controversy surrounding Hughes who, in the past, has fallen out with Tony Pulis (three times), Roberto Mancini, Martin Jol and Arsene Wenger.

At the end of a rambunctious 90 minutes, Mourinho suggested this was a game when he needed Marouane Fellaini. Manchester United fans might wonder what question ever requires the answer Fellaini, but Mourinho's implication was clear. Against a physical, route-one side he needed the walking elbow.

Lacking his application, United, having recovered quickly from Stoke's opening goal, had subsequently allowed two points to slip.

Mourinho's opposite number, however, was not impressed by such analysis.

Romelu Lukaku scores Manchester United’s second goal during their 2-2 draw against Stoke City on Saturday. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Romelu Lukaku scores Manchester United’s second goal during their 2-2 draw against Stoke City on Saturday. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

According to Hughes, Stoke have not been playing to such stereotype for several seasons.

"That's just an easy swipe at us," he said. "It's a bit lazy of people to keep reverting to that 'Stoke are a physical team' thing. We have changed, I try to bring good players here and we try to play football and I think you saw evidence of that."

Hughes has a point. Here, led by the endlessly tricky Xherdan Shaqiri, a man who excels as a playmaker despite appearing to have no legs, Stoke were never less than ambitious and vibrant. And up front they had a real find.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting arrived on a free transfer from Schalke and with two sharp finishes against the league leaders, he is already a fan favourite. According to Hughes, there is a lot more to the multi-lingual German-born Cameroon international than extravagant nomenclature.

"I didn't expect him to embrace the Premier League as quickly as he has but he's a great kid with a great personality," he said. "He's got a big smile on his face, he's very articulate and we're delighted he's here."

Though Mourinho might argue Choupo-Moting's two-goal contribution might have been different had United had a defence which, when confronted with his threat, stood up to be counted.

Or, at least in Phil Jones's case, just stood up. David de Gea would have every right to despair of his defensive colleague's calamitous showing.

First Jones and Matteo Darmian contrived to gift Mame Biram Diouf the space in which to produce a cross for Choupo-Moting to slide home Stoke's opener. Then, after Marcus Rashford's inadvertent equaliser and with United taking the lead through Romelu Lukaku's conversion of Henrikh Mkhitaryan's beautiful through ball, the Spanish goalkeeper produced what seemed to be a match-winning save to deny Jese.

From the resulting corner, however, Jones conducted a one-man sit down strike to allow Choupo-Moting a free header for his second.

"It was a really bad goal to concede," said Mourinho.

Not for the first time, the United manager blamed international duty for his defender's stumble (he was tired after playing two England games, apparently). In which case, at least Jones will be able to rest this week when United return to the Champions League as he is suspended.

But the truth was, after a gentle opening set of fixtures, United were, for the first time this season, confronted by a proper challenge. Driven by a superb performance from United old boy Darren Fletcher, and with Jack Butland in the kind of form that makes Gareth Southgate's persistence with Joe Hart ever more mystifying (his late save to prevent a Kurt Zouma own goal was up to De Gea's impeccable standards), Stoke were more than resilient.

Mourinho might draw comfort from the hint his team gave of their own spirit in their response to falling behind, but will be in no doubt as to how far they are from the finished article.

In the end, as he accepted, a draw was a just result.

Though it was not a view he was prepared to discuss with his opponent. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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