Risky game

> Mour­inho’s method for deal­ing with young play­ers could back­fire <

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY JACK PITT-BROOKE

EVEN NOW, 12 years af­ter first ar­riv­ing in Eng­land, Jose Mour­inho still has the power to raise eye­brows. Not with the qual­ity of his Manch­ester United team, or at least, not yet. But with the bru­tal­ity of his pub­lic crit­i­cism of his own play­ers, which sets a stan­dard no-one else wants to match.

So it was again on Sun­day, when Mour­inho fol­lowed a 3-1 win at Swansea City, United’s first Pre­mier League win since Septem­ber, with an­other warn­ing to Shaw about how far away he is from the stan­dards Mour­inho ex­pects.

“To com­pete you have to go to the lim­its,” Mour­inho de­manded, some­thing that Shaw had clearly not done, by pulling out of the match.

It was not the first time since tak­ing over that Mour­inho has gone for Shaw like this.

When United lost 3-1 at Wat­ford in Septem­ber, Mour­inho blamed Shaw for Wat­ford’s sec­ond goal, de­tail­ing in his press con­fer­ence ex­actly what Shaw had done.

“This is tac­ti­cal,” he snarled, “but also a men­tal at­ti­tude”.

Per­haps it should be lit­tle sur­prise. When­ever Mour­inho starts at a new job, he likes to test out his play­ers, to see if they are as men­tally strong as he needs them to be. So he drops them, crit­i­cises them, in pub­lic and in pri­vate, to see if they can han­dle it.

It is part of what he calls “con­fronta­tional lead­er­ship”, the method that has won him so many tro­phies.

“It is when you are ready to pro­voke your play­ers,” he ex­plained last year, “to try to cre­ate some con­flict, with the in­ten­tion to bring out the best from them”.

Mour­inho has se­ri­ous mis­giv­ings about Shaw, and doubts that he can be United’s long-term so­lu­tion at left­back. Mour­inho’s cam­paign of crit­i­cism against him may yet spark the im­prove­ment his man­ager is look­ing for.

And if it does not, United can al­ways go and buy a re­place­ment, although the club want Mour­inho to per­sist with a player they spent £30 mil­lion (RM156m) on.

Shaw, at least, has still started 10 games for Mour­inho this sea­son. That is more than An­thony Mar­tial (eight), Mor­gan Sch­nei­der­lin (three), Ti­mothy Fosu-Men­sah (two) or, strangest of all, Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan (just one).

Mour­inho de­cided on Sun­day that the play­ers to dig him out of the hole were the play­ers who have been at Old Traf­ford longer than any­one else: Wayne Rooney, Michael Car­rick, Ash­ley Young and Phil Jones, four vet­er­ans of the Sir Alex Fer­gu­son era, four se­nior play­ers who still re­mem­ber the heat of the fa­mous old hairdryer.

It might be that those four, plus a few oth­ers like them, can sta­bilise United’s sea­son and, at the least, get them into the Cham­pi­ons League.

But this is pre­cisely why the Shaw is­sue is so im­por­tant and so in­struc­tive. Mour­inho’s meth­ods were honed with the last gen­er­a­tion of play­ers, play­ers now near­ing the end of their ca­reers. Young play­ers do not like him as much.

That was proven first at Real Madrid and then back at Chelsea. In both jobs he lost the dress­ing room in his third sea­son, when the younger play­ers grew tired of his end­less emo­tional games.

When Mour­inho re­turned to Chelsea in 2013, he found a very tal­ented set of young play­ers wait­ing for him. He tried to push them but de­cided some could not han­dle it.

Three years on, Kevin De Bruyne is the best player in the Pre­mier League, a £55 mil­lion (RM286m) bar­gain for Manch­ester City.

Romelu Lukaku is the most pro­lific young striker in the coun­try and will only leave Ever­ton for some­thing close to £70 mil­lion (RM364m). Even Victor Moses is flour­ish­ing in the Chelsea first team.

Mour­inho could not un­lock the po­ten­tial of those play­ers, but it was his fail­ure, rather than theirs. Now, at Manch­ester United, he finds a new set of gifted young­sters he does not know quite what to do with.

Shaw has got it in the neck twice now, al­ready, and their re­la­tion­ship looks close to break­ing point. But if it was not Shaw, it would be some­one else, an­other young­ster Mour­inho would try his same old meth­ods on, but with­out the same old suc­cess­ful re­sults. – The In­de­pen­dent

From left: Jose Mour­inho, Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.