A frustrating transfer window followed by a disastrous loss to Brighton last week has seen plenty of speculation surrounding Mourinho’s relationship with the club’s board, and especially that between him and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who is in charge of transfers.
His relationship with star midfielder and newly-installed club captain Paul Pogba has also come under scrutiny after a media back-and-forth, which began with Mourinho’s less-than-effusive praise of the player following Pogba’s starring role in France’s World Cup triumph and continued into the first game of the season, when the Frenchman implied he wasn’t happy at the club.
A difficult start to the season for Manchester United promises to get even worse unless Jose Mourinho can inspire a reaction from his side against Tottenham Hotspur tonight. pic.twitter.com/CurlImYCEC— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) August 27, 2018
All of this culminated in Mourinho’s terse press conference ahead of Monday’s clash against Tottenham, although he did take time to praise the United fans for their support over the season’s first two games.
“The supporters were fantastic in both matches,” said Mourinho. “Not for me, for the team which is the only thing that matters.
“In my career I was never selfish and thinking about myself, I was always a club man.
“That’s what I am. I am really happy when the supporters they support the team. Against Leicester, you can say in a normal situation because the team was playing well and was winning.
“But to be supportive of the team against Brighton, where we didn’t play well and lost the match, it gives you a fantastic feeling.
“I hope that feeling, the players also feel it and the players they are ready to give them everything they have.”
Other than that, however, Mourinho refused to be drawn on anything, including whether he was frustrated by the loss to Brighton, a result that followed several losses last season to the so-called lesser teams of the Premier League despite United usually playing well against fellow teams in the top six.
“No, it is not a frustration because it would also be a frustration if we win every match against the non top-six team and don’t win against the top six, that would also be a frustration,” he said.
“We want to win all the time. We want to play well all the time. We don’t want to make mistakes. That is what you always want.
“We want a winning style. Don’t make defensive mistakes. Be dominant. Chances, score goals and go home with the three points.”
Mourinho has not been happy with the media coverage of United in recent times, and thus didn’t take the bait when he was asked whether he was satisfied with his squad.
“You know my answer,” said Mourinho.
“I do not need to answer because I do not even know sometimes why I am here because you know everything.
“During the week it looks like you show that you know everything then I come here and you ask me questions. It’s a bit strange.”
The Portuguese shot down a question on Tottenham’s own transfer difficulties after a summer in which Spurs became the first team in Premier League history to make zero signings in the summer transfer window, snapping, “It is not my problem.”
Andreas Pereira is surrounded by huge names, big egos, experienced stars whose trophy cabinets are crammed full of silverware – but it is one of Manchester United’s lesser lights that he should look to if he really wants to shine bright on the Old Trafford stage.
Jesse Lingard remains a much-maligned player in the red half of Manchester but Pereira would be wise to pick up the breadcrumbs he has dropped and follow the same yellow brick road to success as a Red Devil.
Loan spells away from parent clubs on the way to ultimate glory are far from uncommon for footballers, particularly at United.
Take David Beckham, Jermain Defoe and John Terry who were nobodies when they went to Preston North End, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest respectively in their formative years – yet returned with reputations enhanced.
Beckham scored two goals in five matches, one a trademark free-kick and the other direct from a corner, as he earned the respect of hard-nosed senior pros – among them future United manager David Moyes – initially wary of the flashy teenager from the Premier League.
Lingard himself spent a mammoth period away from Old Trafford between 2012-15, learning to hone his talent. Indeed, it seemed as if his future was destined to be played in the second tier after successful spells with Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Derby County in the Championship.
He used his time away wisely, memorably scoring four goals, including a 13-minute hat-trick, on his Birmingham debut in a 4-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday.
Still, it seemed like he would never quite make the grade – many strangely still believe he hasn’t and won’t – before finally breaking through under Louis van Gaal in 2015/16.
He made 42 appearances and hasn’t looked back – culminating in featuring prominently for England at the World Cup – even if he divides opinion like few other players.
Whatever your opinion, there is no doubt the 25-year-old has finally come of age in the past three seasons and become an increasingly vital player under Jose Mourinho. This despite the constant criticism both from outside and within the club.
A creator of exquisite and intelligent runs, a scorer of spectacular and crucial goals in the biggest games.
While he may not be the biggest either in name or stature, his importance to Mourinho and United is immeasurable.
He is living proof that while talent is a much sought-after commodity in football, there really is no substitute for dedication, hard work and perseverance.
These are all traits Pereira can use in order to forge his own path to glory. The Belgian-born midfielder has already trodden his own fairly worn footsteps away from Old Trafford.
He impressed in the high-pressure environment of La Liga during the last two seasons, shining particularly brightly in 2016/17 with Granada, where his five goals in 37 games nevertheless could not prevent relegation.
Last season he was said to have largely underwhelmed at the Mestalla, despite featuring 29 times, scoring once and contributing three La Liga assists for Valencia as Los Che finished fourth and qualified for the Champions League for the first time in three seasons.
The 22-year-old was frequently accused of individualism and immaturity.
Yet he hit the ground running in the absence of United’s World Cup stars this summer, scoring a stunning free-kick on an otherwise forgetful day for United against Liverpool – Pereira’s strike coming as a 4-1 hammering was meted out in Michigan by arch enemies.
There’s plenty of pressure on Mourinho and United following an abject start to the season – the knives are out in force and being sharpened following last week’s woeful 3-2 defeat at Brighton.
Yet Pereira is playing, and also performing. His 93 passes are fifth most so far for United, his three interceptions per game leads the team and his 91.4 per cent pass success rate trails only Fred and Victor Lindelof.
Twelve months ago, having impressed on United’s US pre-season tour, he angered his manager when he opted to return to Spain with Valencia rather than fight for a first team place – Nemanja Matic’s arrival surely had a bearing on that decision.
But this summer, he has earned praise from a purring Mourinho, as well as an upgrade to the No15 jersey, with the boss ironically now no longer seeing him as just a number.
“At this moment he is a player – not a number,” the Portuguese said of Pereira ahead of the Tottenham game.
“Sometimes in the squad you have a couple of players who are just a number. They are just there to cover, to play a couple of minutes in the Carabao Cup.
“But at this moment, Pereira is a player who is competing with the other guys for a position in the team.”
That will be music to the Brazil Under-23 international’s ears. And he must now find a rhythm this season.
He has the upper hand on Lingard in many respects. He possesses infinitely more skill and technique. Now if he can just emulate the England man’s heart and attitude he might have Old Trafford dancing to his Samba beat.
Jose Mourinho and Manchester United need to be “very careful” that any conflict at the club does not strengthen Manchester City’s hand, according to former Red Devils assistant boss Mike Phelan.
Manager Mourinho denied there was any rift with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on Friday, during a tetchy press conference looking ahead to Monday’s Premier League home clash with Tottenham.
The Portuguese has nonetheless made clear his frustration over the lack of extra signings during the summer, which saw three players join – midfielder Fred, full-back Diogo Dalot and goalkeeper Lee Grant.
And after the season-opening 2-1 home win against Leicester, the failure to improve in defence appeared glaring in the 3-2 loss at Brighton last weekend.
Defending champions City, who United finished 19 points behind in second place last season, have taken seven points from three games so far this term.
Phelan told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme: “I think what is there at the moment is fierce competition within the city, and if Manchester United are at loggerheads within the club I think it just helps fuel Manchester City’s cause more than anything else.
“And I think that’s something they need to be very careful of because Manchester City are a very big club now and they’re very well run and they know how to use certain situations, and I think that helps – unrest across the road helps.”
When asked if he believes Mourinho will still be in charge at the end of the season, Phelan, who spent five years as number two to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, said: “Results and performances will dictate that. The end of the season is a long, long way away.
“But he needs to now get results. He’s on the back of what was a disappointing performance and result.
“It’s all going to come down to a mixture of everything. Most managers are concerned with results, most clubs are concerned with results, but he has to perform as well – and the less said and the more action probably is better.”
The loss at Brighton was followed by a report that disillusionment about Mourinho’s methods was growing in the United dressing room, and there has been plenty of questioning of Paul Pogba’s happiness at the club.
However, Fred, who started the Leicester game and played the full duration against Brighton, says the dressing room at United “has an excellent atmosphere”.
The 25-year-old Brazilian, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in June, told ESPN Brasil: “The media love to talk.
“The dressing room has an excellent atmosphere. From what I’ve seen since I arrived, no one has a problem with anybody. It’s the contrary. Everyone wants to help everyone.
“(The criticism) is normal. We lost a match. It is a big team, a European giant. It is normal that people talk, but Mourinho is a great manager.
“I am really happy to be working with him. I’m really happy to be part of this group as well, because it is a really good and closed group. We are all finding solutions to help us improve on the pitch to find our victories.”
Fred added: “No one is happy after a defeat. I was very angry about this defeat (against Brighton) and we could have gone top, but this is football.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t play well, but now we have a big game in front of us and we need to try to improve and look for the victory.”