Nine Manchester United players Jose Mourinho publicly criticised while boss

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Jose Mourinho’s two and a half years in charge of Manchester United came to an end on Tuesday – and certain players may well be happy about it.

Mourinho’s future at Old Trafford been under intense scrutiny in recent months, with a number of players reportedly unhappy under his management.

We’ve taken a look at nine players the Portuguese publicly criticised during his time at United.

Luke Shaw

Shaw was one of the early scapegoats during Mourinho’s tenure, with the left-back most notably singled out after United were beaten 3-1 at Watford in 2016.

“Today for the second goal, (Nordin) Amrabat on the right side, our left-back is 25 metres distance from him, instead of five metres,” Mourinho said afterwards.

“But even at 25 metres, then you have to jump and go press. But no, we wait.

“This is a tactical but also a mental attitude. In a couple of weeks, everything like this becomes perfect. That’s my job.”

The England international initially struggled to establish himself under Mourinho but had appeared to turn things around this season before being struck down by injury once again.

Paul Pogba

Well, where do we start with this?

At first Mourinho defended Pogba in the media, and even suggested the midfielder could go on to captain the club. But things started to go awry in the duo’s second campaign at Old Trafford, with Mourinho reportedly unhappy that the player flew to Miami to recover from a hamstring injury rather than stay in Manchester.

Come the end of the season, reports suggest they are barely on speaking terms, and Mourinho only exacerbates the problem when appearing to criticise the player’s focus while praising his displays for France at the World Cup.

“I don’t think it’s about us getting the best out of him,” the Portuguese told ESPN. “It’s about him giving the best he has to give. I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give the best.

“Why? Because it’s closed for a month, where he can only think about football. Where he’s with his team on the training camp, completely isolated from the external world, where they focus just on football, where the dimensions of the game can only motivate.

“During a season, you can have a big match then a smaller match, then one even smaller, then you can lose your focus, you can lose your concentration, then comes a big match again.”

And one of the final blows to their relationship came when Mourinho stripped Pogba of the vice-captaincy.

Judging by Pogba’s tweet after it was confirmed Mourinho had been sacked, he won’t miss his former manager.


Antonio Valencia

One of the most damning indictments of Mourinho’s relationship with his players possibly came with his fall-out with Valencia.

Valencia had often captained the club under Mourinho, with the manager even declaring in 2017 that the Ecuador international “simply the best right-back you can have, there is no better right-back in football”.

And yet he has been largely frozen out in 2018-19 after Mourinho criticised the player’s fitness when he returned for pre-season training.

“Antonio Valencia comes from holiday – I think too much holiday for him. His condition was not good when he was back, then injury and also go back.”

Marcus Rashford

Mourinho’s treatment of Rashford has often been criticised by pundits and supporters, but the manager bit back after United were beaten at Brighton last season in a game in which the England international was handed a rare start as a central striker.

“Why always Lukaku?” Mourinho asked reporters. “Now you have your answer to ‘Why always Lukaku?’ We are not as good individually as people think we are.

“The players who replaced others didn’t perform at a good level and when individuals don’t perform at a good level it’s difficult for the team to play at a good level.

“And now maybe you understand why some players play more than others and you won’t ask me all the time why A, B and C don’t play more.”

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Mkhitaryan was one of Mourinho’s first signings as manager, but the former Borussia Dortmund attacker largely flattered to deceive with United, making a slow start and only showing flashes of his talent.

After making a much better start to his second season in a red shirt, Mkhitaryan’s form once again dropped off, and Mourinho made his disappointment clear.

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five,” he said in November 2017 after dropping the player from his matchday squad.

“He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a No 10, were decreasing.”

Two months later, Mkhitaryan left Old Trafford as part of the swap deal which saw Alexis Sanchez leave Arsenal for the Red Devils.

Anthony Martial

Another player whose face often hasn’t fit under Mourinho, Martial has regularly been in and out of favour over the past two and a half seasons.

“Do I think Anthony is a player with great ability? Yes. Do I think he can play successfully for me? Yes. But he needs to give me things that I like,” he said in April 2017.

“That’s why Marcus Rashford even without scoring goals, and not in the Premier League since September, he was always a player that I trust and I play and support because he was always coming in my direction and what I want from a Manchester United player.”

And the France international enraged Mourinho further after failing to return to United’s pre-season tour of the USA having left to be with his girlfriend as she gave birth to their son.

“He has the baby and after the baby is born – beautiful baby, full of health, thank god,” Mourinho told MUTV. “He should be here and he is not here.”

He added: “I just hope the boys on deserved holidays, they take care of themselves a little bit and somebody wants to do what Rashford and Jones do, which is to be back a little bit earlier to try and help the team because for the beginning of the season we are going to be in trouble.”

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling

It only seems right that these two were lumped together after their attempts to return to fitness were criticised ahead of a Manchester derby towards the end of Mourinho’s first season in charge.

“It’s about the philosophy and mentality around them,” he said of Smalling and Jones. “Cautious. Cautious. Cautious. Just a cautious approach.

“It’s a profile, it’s the philosophy of work. Just that.”

Andreas Pereira

Pereira returned to Manchester United ahead of 2018-19 after spending a season on loan with Valencia, but Mourinho was unhappy that the player decided not to stay and fight for a first-team place at Old Trafford.

“Andreas Pereira was a personal decision that I don’t agree with,” he said at the time of the move.

“A decision I don’t think honestly is the best decision for him, a decision that disappoints me a little bit, because I think he has the potential to be here fighting for a position, for opportunities, and fighting to be a Manchester United player.

“I think his decision can be considered a decision of a young player who wants to play every weekend but can also be considered a decision by a young player that is not ready to fight for something difficult and it’s difficult to play in the Manchester United midfield.”

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