‘Man Utd have learned I am not a monster’: Mourinho


LONDON, March 4: Mourinho believes his first nine months in charge of Manchester United have dispelled any fears the club employed a “monster” and said he has forged a close bond with the Old Trafford hierarchy that goes beyond a professional relationship.

As Mourinho challenged his players to pile the pressure on Liverpool and Arsenal ahead of their meeting at Anfield on Saturday evening by beating Bournemouth at lunchtime to temporarily leapfrog their rivals into fourth place, the United manager said his new club had encountered someone very different to his public image.

Mourinho’s critics had questioned whether the Portuguese’s brand of football and capacity for controversy made him the right fit for United upon his appointment as Louis van Gaal’s successor last May.

Branded an “enemy of football” by Uefa in the wake of criticism of referee Anders Frisk following a Champions league tie between Chelsea and Barcelona in 2005, Mourinho attracted similar opprobrium as Real Madrid coach for once sticking a finger in the eye of Pep Guardiola’s former assistant at Barcelona, Tito Vilanova. His treatment of former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro last season was also widely condemned.

But Mourinho believes he has struck up a level of trust with the Old Trafford board and owners, the Glazer family, that has resulted in close relations.

“I think Manchester United learn I am not the monster that you say I am, I’m not such a bad guy, an arrogant guy, a difficult person to work with, at least until now nobody at the training ground runs away when I arrive,” Mourinho said.

 “So I think I am better than you think. People are quite happy to have me around and to work with me. The relation with the players is very good, and with my owners and my board the relation I don’t think is just professional, it’s also a relation of trust and a relation that goes further than the contract, the manager, the owner, the board, so I’m happy. My feeling is everyone is happy.

United’s style of play has gradually improved and mentality hardened under Mourinho and he delivered the EFL Cup on Sunday with a 3-2 victory over Southampton. But he has now told his players to focus their attention on turning up the heat on Liverpool and Arsenal by overcoming Bournemouth to move a point clear in fourth, if only for a few hours.

“The League Cup is finished,” he said. “This weekend is Bournemouth and we have to try and win the match. We know Liverpool play Arsenal and you know, for sure, somebody is going to lose points so we should win against Bournemouth but they are a very tricky team.”

Luke Shaw has been included in United’s squad to face Bournemouth, and could even start the match after being omitted from the 18-man squad at Wembley. Shaw, 21, has struggled to win Mourinho’s trust but the manager has told the England defender that he has the potential to be the best of all United’s left backs if he applies himself properly over the next two years.

 “I think the one that should be in a couple of years the best of all, because potentially he should have all the conditions to be the best of all, is Luke Shaw,” Mourinho said.

“By age, by physicality, by intensity, aggressive going forward, he should be the best. But to be the best you need to work hard. It’s what he’s trying to do.”

Mourinho is convinced Zlatan Ibrahimovic will extend his contract and be “fundamental” to what United want to achieve next year but the manager could offer no guarantees that Wayne Rooney would still be at the club then.

“Next season 100 per cent I would like him to be with us but I don’t give you 100 per cent and I like the players to be happy and not just to be with me because I want them with me,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mourinho has indicated that he hopes striker Marcus Rashford is not included in England’s squad for the European Under-21 Championships in the summer and will be given an opportunity to rest given United’s fixture overload this season.

“If the team goes until the end in different competitions every one of my players should finish the last game and disappear to some place where he could rest for a month and not think about football,” Mourinho said. “Don’t move one leg, just move the arm to get the glass. Disconnect totally. Marcus is a young guy. Maybe every experience – if he is not exhausted – can help him to be a better player. Let’s wait and analyse the situation when that comes.”