Football: Mourinho comes out swinging at critics

Jose Mourinho has been officially unveiled as Manchester United's new manager. Photo / AP
Jose Mourinho has been officially unveiled as Manchester United's new manager. Photo / AP

Jose Mourinho came out swinging overnight with Arsene Wenger, Louis van Gaal and the critics who claim his playing style and record of youth promotion are incompatible with Manchester United's traditions caught in the crosshairs as he spelt out his vision for putting English football's fallen giant back on top.

Mourinho came armed and prepared for his media unveiling as United manager, anticipating the questioning and responding with long, impassioned answers that, while prerehearsed, will have struck a chord with supporters who had tired of the defeatist, negative rhetoric of his predecessors, Van Gaal and David Moyes.

"I know the responsibility, the expectation," Mourinho said. "At the same time I know the legacy. I know the history of this club, I know what the fans expect from me and I think this challenge obviously doesn't make me nervous because my history in the last 10 years or more was always to live with big clubs' expectations.

I can say I am where I want to be.

"I can anticipate that any one of you will come later with a question about style of play. I can anticipate by saying you can win a couple of matches without playing well but you cannot win competitions without playing well. I want everything. Of course we are not going to get everything but we want to."

Mourinho accepted his final season at Chelsea was a "disaster" after being sacked with the club in 16th position in the Premier League. But he reminded his audience that he was a championship winner just 14 months ago at Stamford Bridge and that some of his rivals had gone more than a decade since last lifting the title, another pointed dig at Wenger, the Arsenal manager and his long-time adversary. Arsenal last won the title in 2003-04.

"The last time I won a title was one year ago, not 10 years ago or 15 years ago, so if I have a lot to prove, imagine the others."

One of the most frequent criticisms directed at Mourinho is his perceived poor record on youth development, an area of particular relevance given United's rich history of promoting from within. Anticipating an inquisition on the subject, the Portuguese brandished a piece of paper listing 49 "young players I promoted to the first team from academies" at Benfica, Porto, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Some of the inclusions suggested Mourinho was trying to massage the figures. Casemiro had played over 100 games for Sao Paulo before signing for Real for £10 million after an initial loan. The list distributed actually featured a further six names, including Arjen Robben, for whom Chelsea paid £12 million in 2004, by which point he had made 127 appearances in the Dutch league.

The alarm bells will be ringing for the United and England captain. Van Gaal and Roy Hodgson had converted Wayne Rooney into a central midfielder but Mourinho insists he has no intention of playing him there while conceding that "maybe he is not a striker any more".

"For me he will be a 9, a 10, a nine and a half but not a 6, not even an 8." Mourinho was more effusive about the prospect of an attacking partnership between teenager Marcus Rashford and ageing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. "Our two strikers are exactly in the perfect age, because 18 is not the perfect age, 34 is not. So I think they can be an amazing complement for each other."

Mourinho was adamant he wanted to sign "specialists" and had little interest in "multifunctional players" while as good as confirming that a deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to become his third signing was done, even if he did not name the Borussia Dortmund midfielder. Yet he insisted he would not "breathe" in the transfer market until he had secured his fourth and final target. That is thought to be Paul Pogba, the France midfielder.

Mourinho believes it will be counterproductive obsessing about Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, with whom he had a toxic rivalry in Spain, when the Premier League presents challenges on so many fronts. "To speak about one manager, one club, one enemy, I hate the word in football and in life. I don't think it is right in this country."
Ryan Giggs

Mourinho said Ryan Giggs chose to leave United after 29 years because "the job Ryan wanted is the job the club decided to give me" and refused to accept any responsibility for the Welshman's departure. But Mourinho said Giggs had been "brave and honest" by pursuing managerial options elsewhere, likened the situation to his own when he was an assistant at Barcelona in 2000 before leaving to try his hand at management at Benfica, and said he would "never stop him" coming back to Old Trafford. He said the prospect of Giggs one day managing United would be "something natural".

-Daily Telegraph

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