Sunday 18 February 2018

'Sometimes a manager needs to be a psychologist as well' - PFA chief slams Jose Mourinho

Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw were criticised by Jose Mourinho
Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw were criticised by Jose Mourinho

James Ducker and Matt Law

Jose Mourinho has been rebuked by the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association over his public criticism of Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling and warned he must show more empathy with players who have “personal problems”.

The Manchester United manager criticised Shaw and Smalling over the defenders’ apparent unwillingness to play through the pain barrier in Sunday’s 3-1 win away to Swansea City, an attack that left the pair bemused.

Shaw is still dealing with issues arising from the double leg fracture that kept him out for 10 months and sources close to the England left-back, who received the staunch backing of his former Southampton team-mate Adam Lallana, deny that the player informed Mourinho of his unavailability on the morning of the game.

Smalling has missed United’s past four matches with a foot injury but took a pain-killing injection in order to be able to appear against Chelsea last month.

Gareth Southgate, the interim England manager, claimed this week that he had never been given the impression either Smalling or Shaw were “flaky” and now Gordon Taylor, head of the players’ union, has waded into the debate by voicing his displeasure at Mourinho’s suggestions.

Speaking at the VSI Sporting Directors governance dinner on Tuesday evening, Taylor said: “I was disappointed by that [Mourinho’s comments] because, knowing the individuals, they are both highly thought of.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho

“They’ve got personal problems which I don’t need to relay, but sometimes a manager needs to be a psychologist as well, and also to be a counsellor because you can’t treat everybody in the team [the same], every manager must know that. Every player in a team is different.

“When you see what happened with Welsh football and Gary Speed, that brings it home to you that somebody can look on top of the world, with no problems, but [in reality] it’s quite different and that’s why we have a 24-hour counselling service.

“We get some 200 calls a year to those lines because a player could be out of the team, he could be injured. It’s a short-term career and we’re all human beings.

“I think that’s what management these days has to be. I’m not talking about being soft, I’m talking about being understanding.”

Lallana, who played with Shaw at Southampton, insists his England team-mate is “mentally and physically strong”. “He’s a very strong character,” the Liverpool midfielder said.

“Speaking of the injury itself, you don’t come back from a leg break like he had without having difficult times mentally on your own. You don’t come back from that unless you are strong.”

Another United player whose mentality has been questioned is Henrikh Mkhitaryan but the Armenia captain, who has barely played since moving to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, insists that he is “not going to give in”.

“I went a long way to play in Manchester United, so nothing will prevent me from achieving my dream,” he said. “I will not retreat, I will find the strength to reach my goal.”

Meanwhile, United transfer target Antoine Griezmann has opened the door to a move by hinting at his desire to play alongside France team-mate Paul Pogba at Old Trafford in the future.

“You hear a lot of things about Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain but right now I don’t see me moving to a new club,” the Atletico Madrid forward said. “But it would be awesome to play alongside Paul one day.''

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