If Jose Mourinho is trying to build a close-knit relationship with his Manchester United players, he really isn’t going about it the right way.
Mourinho put Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw on blast after Sunday’s win at Swansea, claiming both were not willing to play through the pain for the benefit of the team.
“There is a difference between the brave, who want to play at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference," Mourinho said.
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His comments have led many to speculate whether or not he is close to losing the dressing room. The Sun believe the answer to that is no, and that senior players are willing to accept the 53-year-old authoritarian regime.
Other media outlets, including the Telegraph, reckon he is. That United players are starting to lose faith in the man responsible for dragging the club out of the wilderness.
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They report that players have been left disillusioned by Mourinho’s hands-off approach in the dressing room and in training, expecting the feisty manager to be quick to get involved.
And his comments about Smalling and Shaw apparently haven’t gone down too well.
Playing through the pain barrier
Mourinho seemingly questioned the pair’s commitment when he said: “For the team, you have to do anything."
But they are. Both Smalling and Shaw have received painkilling injections this season to numb the pain of recent injuries.
Shaw has just returned from a double leg break that seriously stunted his progress. It was clear in Thursday’s 2-1 defeat to Fenerbahce in the Europa League that he is still off the pace.
While Mourinho said the 21-year-old pulled out of the Swansea game hours before kick-off, it is believed that the former Southampton man didn’t even travel to Wales with the squad.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that Shaw reportedly told his teammates that he is “baffled” by the saga.
Smalling, meanwhile, has made 11 appearances this season while apparently suffering from a foot injury throughout the entire campaign.
Mourinho even revealed how difficult a time Smalling is having after the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea on October 23.
“He was phenomenal to play against Chelsea with such a difficult physical situation for him,” the United boss said.
“He couldn’t do it two days later against [Manchester] City. There was no chance.”
So it seems odd to now question Smalling’s desire to play.
The defenders aren’t the only players whose relationship with Mourinho appears bleak. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have all been involved in similarly difficult episodes with the United manager.