04 Feb Mourinho on winning mentality
Jose Mourinho is working to instil a winning mentality he feels some at Manchester United have being lacking.
Last season’s FA Cup was the only major trophy United could muster in the three underwhelming campaigns that followed Sir Alex Ferguson’s success-laden reign.
The 20-time league champions even failed to qualify for the Champions League in two of those seasons, leading the board to turn to Mourinho in a bid to take the club back to the top of the English game.
That chapter has not been entirely comfortable so far and United enter the weekend sixth in the Premier League following a goalless home draw against Hull.
However, Mourinho believes a winning mentality is being restored at Old Trafford, even if it has been more difficult to coax out of some.
“I told you in the first or second press conference that I was speaking about being champion because I don’t think there is another position that a manager can have in this club,” Mourinho said ahead of Sunday’s trip to Leicester.
“It would be easy for me to say we want to play better, we want to improve the quality of my game, we want to improve the relationship between the players and the fans. I want the fans to feel again more connected with the team and style of play.
“I didn’t know the players very well. I didn’t know that some players need time to live with this because this must be part of your natural habitat: play to win, responsibility to win, cope with the pressure to win.
“This is something that has to belong to your natural habitat and for some guys it doesn’t.
“They also need that time to go out of their comfort zone or a zone where they are protected because we assume that the objective is not to win, that also takes time.
“Mr (Ed) Woodward (executive vice-chairman) and the owners, we spoke a couple of times, we don’t need to speak every day because we know exactly the way to do it.
“I think a very good way to do it is also to be fighting for the competitions we are because this helps.
“To play a final again, to go to the knockout of the Europa League again with some responsibilities because we feel we also have responsibilities in the competition. These are all details that are going to help the people.”
United’s mentality has been under the spotlight this week as former defender Rio Ferdinand criticised Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard for positing a video of a new celebration.
The United great said that “until you’ve won something you can’t go out and do stuff like that” – comments Mourinho was reticent to respond to.
“No, no, no, I respect Rio,” he said when asked about the comments. “He was a big guy in my club, he was a legend in my club.
“I am not, so as somebody that is not his level in the club, I don’t feel I have any legitimacy to comment on Rio.
“And I’m not saying to you that I agree or I disagree, I’m not saying that.
“I’m just saying that in relation to all these people that they are in the history of Manchester United, much bigger than I am, I don’t comment to say I agree or disagree.”
When pointed out that Ferguson used to keep a close eye on aspects of the players’ lives like that, the United manager made the point of the changing landscape on the field and away from it.
“It’s not good to compare moments in football, because it is the way it is in many aspects,” Mourinho said.
“Something that in football doesn’t change, especially in my mentality, is the desire to win, the responsibility to win, the feeling that I’m never happy with myself, I always want more from myself.
“That is something that, for me, never changes.
“I started as Sir Bobby Robson’s assistant in 1991, 1992 and in all this period football has changed so much. The only thing that hasn’t changed in me is that desire to work and that desire to win.
“I don’t accept anything that is good. You don’t want good, you want very good.
“That is something that I always fight every day for the people that surround me: players, assistants, medical department, everybody that surrounds me day by day.
“It’s something I fight and I will fight for forever. Other details related to evolution for good and for bad in the society, it’s not possible to compare the times.”