Mourinho PI: Man Utd boss launches Old Trafford inquiry

Frustrated manager wants to change the culture of the club and promises a review and overhaul of first-team affairs

Jose Mourinho
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has turned private eye to uncover what is wrong at Old Trafford. According to BBC Sport he is "investigating all aspects of first-team affairs after being dismayed at the culture he has inherited at the club".

It's been a difficult start to his reign as United manager and Mourinho has become increasingly frustrated by his team's performances. Sunday's victory over lowly Swansea was only their second win in eight Premier League matches, while they have struggled in the Europa League and may not make the knockout stages.

Mourinho's irritation at certain aspects of the club was evident on Sunday when, in the wake of the win over Swansea, he criticised defenders Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw for not playing through their injuries.

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But the BBC says that the Portuguese's dissatisfaction with United goes beyond the commitment of his players to the cause. Claiming that Mourinho "has found the general culture at United falling short of his expectations", the BBC says that he is planning to overhaul the way the club is run at a playing level, from pre-season tours to fitness training to diet and rehabilitation.

The 53-year-old, who has won 23 trophies while managing Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, was appointed United manager in the summer after Louis van Gaal parted company with the club two years into a three-year deal.

He arrived with his own fitness specialist, Carlos Lalin, and the BBC says that United's big summer signing, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has been allowed to employ his own personal trainer since signing for the club from Paris Saint-Germain.

Highlighting fitness as a particular concern of Mourinho's, the BBC notes that so far this season United have had ten players sidelined with injury for combined total of 30 matches, "whereas in his first 11 Premier League matches with Chelsea last season, Mourinho was without six players for a total of 17 weeks".

But the Daily Mirror reports that while Mourinho intends to improve the club's fitness programme, he also believes the United players need to "man up". The paper claims that he's "warned his whole squad they must prove they are tough enough" if they want to continue playing for the club.

However, Mourinho's no-nonsense approach brought a rebuke from the players' union chief executive, Gordon Taylor, who accused the United manager of lacking the gentle touch.

"We’re all human beings," he said. "That’s why, with management these days, I’m not talking about being soft, I’m talking about being understanding. Very few make it in the game and those that do have got a real resolve and a resilience. So to suggest that any player is being not as tough as he could be, those days are gone."

Fears of Man Utd rift after Mourinho attacks Smalling and Shaw

8 November

Manchester United defenders Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw are said to be "bewildered" after criticism from Jose Mourinho, who appeared to turn on them in the wake of Sunday's match against Swansea City.

Both players missed the game, which United won 3-1, but were singled out afterwards by the manager, who claimed they had withdrawn from the fixture at short notice and forced him to field a makeshift defence.

"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," said Mourinho. "If I were to speak with the many great football people of this team, they will say they played many times without being 100 per cent."

However, the manager's outburst could lead to a rift in the United camp, with the two players said to be upset over the comments.

The Times says they "have been left bewildered", while Shaw has reportedly told team-mates he is "baffled".

They may have a point, says the Daily Telegraph, as Mourinho's questioning of their "fitness and commitment... has been undermined by the revelation that they have been playing this season with the aid of painkilling injections".

The paper continues: "Mourinho's controversial remarks have only served to highlight his strange relationship with some of his players, following similar episodes involving Shaw, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan this season... There have been suggestions that players have been left disillusioned by his approach in the dressing room and in training sessions."

However, The Sun claims most of the United squad are behind Mourinho after his "amazing bust-up" with Smalling and Shaw.

"Senior players have accepted that the only way to succeed under the Special One is to accept his ruthless regime," says the paper.

It leaves Shaw and Smalling battling to save their United careers, says the Daily Mirror.

Shaw in particular has failed to win over Mourinho. The 21-year-old defender joined United for £27m in 2014, but missed 11 months with a broken leg and was singled out for criticism earlier in the season after defeat to Watford.

While he accepted Mourinho's comments then, "the latest episode has gone down badly with the player and his representatives", says the Mirror.

"They feel Shaw is being unfairly singled out by Mourinho, but what is abundantly clear is that the United boss is rapidly losing patience with the England international.

"Although Smalling was also criticised, it is understood he is not in peril like Shaw, although with Mourinho eyeing a new centre-back in January, his place is far from secure."

Nor does the situation bode well for Mourinho. Even before the Swansea game, Jamie Jackson of The Guardian was asking if the manager was suffering from "third‑season syndrome two years early", referring to his "inability to last longer than that at any club".

Publicly criticising players is the "nuclear option" for any manager, the journalist adds, and the concern for United must be that Mourinho's confrontational stance is "starting to strike the same note as last season's doomed final months at Chelsea, at Real Madrid and towards the end of the first spell in west London".

Mourinho highlights Old Trafford tensions after easy win

7 November

Swansea 1 Man United 3

Manchester United picked up their first Premier League win since September on Sunday, beating lowly Swansea 3-1. However, after the match, manager Jose Mourinho lifted the lid on the tensions simmering within the Old Trafford dressing room.

Mourinho, who has struggled to get the best out of his expensively assembled squad, "went public" with his frustrations as he questioned some players' "willingness to play through the pain barrier", says The Times.

Those he is unhappy with are "believed to include England defenders Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw", who withdrew from the matchday squad with injuries, says the paper. Henrikh Mkhitaryan also appears to have fallen out of favour.

Mourinho pointedly talked about the "difference between the brave, who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference".

He praised Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and Daley Blind for making themselves available for selection.

The manager watched the game from the stands as he served a one-match touchline ban and must have been relieved to be facing such a wretched Swansea side.

"Mourinho had put out a front six that you would not back to win a foot race with a parked car," says the Daily Telegraph. "Behind them was what, on paper, looked the thinnest defence in the history of Manchester United."

However, The Guardian says the back four "barely broke sweat" against an "inept and listless" Swansea.

Despite such poor opposition. United still needed a "quite brilliant" goal to get them underway, adds the paper. Paul Pogba rifled a wonderful volley home from the edge of the box after 14 minutes.

Two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic followed, leaving United with a respectable win under their belts - but problems still mounting.

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