José Mourinho admitted he could risk losing those Manchester United players he criticised again following the 2-0 win over Brighton but believed there was nothing to lose in doing so.
Goals from Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic on 37 and 83 minutes at Old Trafford on Saturday night secured United’s passage to the FA Cup semi-finals. Yet the manager said: “I’m not happy. There was a lack of personality, a lack of class, and a lack of desire” from many of his team, which followed scathing remarks about some of his squad on Friday, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
As the manager needs all players behind him if United are to win the Cup and secure a Champions League berth, he was asked if the public criticism carried a risk.
“Yes. My calculation is that without pressure, they don’t perform well. What can I lose? And the ones that are always there are the ones that will always be there. And that is an example of personality.”
Mourinho pointed to the 21-year-old Scott McTominay. “You have the kid that didn’t play well at all. I told him already, he was the first one I spoke to individually in the dressing room. And instead of being critical with him, I was positive with him saying: ‘You played very bad but you did the basic things that one player has to do.’”
Mourinho suggested some of his team are scared of the United shirt. “The basic thing is to keep the emotional balance to play with that red shirt, which is a heavy shirt to wear. But to feel not comfortable to play, saying: ‘Please Mister, take me from the pitch,’ I felt that. So I have nothing to lose in relation to that. The strong ones will be always the strong ones. The young ones, under pressure and under criticism, will improve or will not improve.
“Matic was an island of personality and quality. But a few of the other guys, I saw them scared to play. Look, I cannot say much more. I think it is in relation with personality, in relation to trust, in relation to class. And you know when the sun is shining, and in football the sun is shining when everything goes well, you win matches, you score goals, everything goes in your direction, every player is a good player and every player wants to play and every player wants the ball and every player is confident to play and every player looks amazing.
“When it is dark and cold and that in football means a period of bad results or a bad result like what happened to us a couple of days ago, not everybody has the confidence and the personality to play really. Because to be on the pitch and touch the ball every five minutes, anyone can do it but to be on the pitch and say: ‘Give me the ball because I want to play,’ that is a little bit more difficult. Not all of them were able to do it.”
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