If the newspapers would have you believe, Manchester United are in turmoil.
After a bright start to the season, Jose Mourinho’s team have lost their last three games and now sit six points behind Manchester City in the Premier League table.
This morning, the Telegraph are carrying a report that, in its first line, reads: “Manchester United’s players fear that Jose Mourinho’s fierce private and public criticism is damaging confidence and already having a destabilising effect on their season.”
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It would seem that there is a mole in the United dressing room, for the Telegraph are not the only publication providing a damaging assessment of the situation at Old Trafford.
Apparently, players are shocked not only by their manager’s public criticism of Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard, but the personal nature of his attacks.
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It’s claimed that Mourinho’s version of the hairdryer treatment carries a “nastier edge” than the one adopted by Sir Alex Ferguson.
And it all started so well.
United legend Gary Neville has watched the crisis unfold. Yesterday morning he tweeted: “Just reading the sports headlines this morning. 10 days ago going into the Derby United were [sic] back. Now they’re F@@@@d. Football madness.”
Neville clearly thought that the media and plenty of United supporters were jumping to an early conclusion. And, with the season at an early stage, he’s right, of course.
Yet if he thinks recent results aren’t anything to be worry about, his reaction to the leaks is quite telling.
“Leaks already after one bad week! Embarrassing!!,” he writes.
Perhaps even more concerning for United and their supporters is that Neville, currently a pundit for Sky Sports, reckons the stories coming out have been passed on by insiders rather than being speculation.
When a fan responded by suggesting the stories might be made up and that he was taking them at absolute gospel, Neville replied: “Absolutely not. However I can sense a piece that's had info passed on and one that's speculative!”
United haven’t won since August 27. Since then, they’ve suffered damaging defeats in the league to Man City and Watford and were humbled by Feyenoord in the Europa League.
Mourinho criticised Shaw’s defending in the loss to Watford on Sunday, which certainly doesn’t seem to be the best method of improving morale.