Manager’s angry demand for more commitment came less than a week after he himself appeared to flirt with PSG
Jose Mourinho’s relationship with his Manchester United players is under strain following their first defeat of the season and his public attack on them.
Boss Mourinho laid into his side in the wake of Saturday’s abject 2-1 defeat away to Premier league rookies Huddersfield, which has left United five points behind table-topping rivals Manchester City.
And the 54-year-old former Chelsea manager was said to be “aloof and cold” with his players when they trained the next day.
Although the players had suspected Mourinho would be distant towards them after the manner of the defeat and his post-match rebuke there is disquiet among some squad members.
Against that backdrop, Mourinho’s relationship with his players, whom he has professed to “love” on more than one occasion since taking over at Old Trafford nearly 18 months ago, is facing its first real test.
There are simmering tensions behind the scenes, with some players feeling Mourinho went too far in his public criticism of them, followed by his subsequent brooding on the training pitch the following day.
Mourinho’s demand that his players show more commitment came less than a week after he himself appeared to flirt with big-spending Paris Saint-Germain.
He told French media that PSG’s project was “special” and “magic”, that his son was a fan of the club and that he would not end his managerial career at United.
Mourinho has also said midfielder Ander Herrera, who admitted United had a poor attitude at Huddersfield, should have been forced to do the post-match press conference himself to explain his remarks.
“I heard Herrera in the flash interviews saying the attitude and desire was poor,” said Mourinho. “Oh my God.
“When a player says that, when a player feels that, I think they should all go to the press conference and explain why, because I cannot explain that.”
United began the season in sparkling form, scoring 21 goals in their opening seven Premier League games and looking ready to go toe-to-toe with neighbours City in the title race.
But that free-scoring early season form has since evaporated, with United scoring once in their last two league games. They seem to have lost their way after such an impressive start, allowing City to break away.
They played for a point at Liverpool in a drab 0-0 draw, despite the defensive frailties of Jurgen Klopp’s side that were brutally exposed in Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to Tottenham and in a 5-0 drubbing at City earlier in the season.
Saturday’s visit of Tottenham, who are level on points with United, is now an even bigger test for Mourinho and his players — not least of the strength of their bond and continued alliance.