Mourinho slams managers turned pundits over United criticism

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Manchester United’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho reacts ahead of the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park in south London on March 5, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK /

Jose Mourinho has hit out again at media pundits — including Gary Neville — for their criticism of Manchester United and star players such as Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez.

And the United manager suggested that their own failures in management make them unqualified to offer such views.

Neville has been a repeated critic of his former club’s manager and, during United’s dramatic victory at Crystal Palace on Monday, in which they trailed 2-0 before recovering to win 3-2, did not hold back in his comments.

“I’ve never seen a Jose Mourinho team as inefficient as this,” said Sky Sports television analyst Neville.

“They are always efficient teams, they always do things really calmly, they are usually solid in defence.”

But Mourinho responded with criticism of his own, especially in the case of Neville who had a brief, unhappy spell in charge of Spanish side Valencia.

“Some of the guys with an opinion couldn’t resolve their own problems when they were managers,” Mourinho told reporters on Friday. “So they are giving opinions like they have solutions for everything but is not like that.”

The former Chelsea manager added: “But they are in a position where they can give opinions about everything, sometimes I read and listen, sometimes I don’t.

“This week I was more focused on enjoying Champions League and Europa League and preparing my match than focusing on opinions,” the Portuguese boss insisted.

Mourinho was speaking ahead of the Premier League meeting with bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday in which he will be looking for star striker Romelu Lukaku to improve on a goalscoring record which has seen him score just one of his 23 goals against a team currently in the top 10 of the division.

The United manager remains firmly impressed by the striker, however, and Lukaku revealed earlier in the week that he considers himself a “sergeant” for his manager on the field.

– ‘Lukaku trust’ –
“I had a laugh with him, that’s fine, he’s an important guy for me, one of the guys that I trust, I love the character,” said Mourinho.

“Against Crystal Palace there was nothing that happened after our third goal but I told him ‘central defender’. So he was playing central defender in a back five with (Chris) Smalling and (Victor) Lindelof because I couldn’t make any more changes.

“So when I say to the striker go there and job for me he is a sergeant. I always thought and told you many times for me it’s not just about the goals he scored but what he brings to the team and it’s that spirit.”

Mourinho tried to downplay the importance of the Liverpool meeting, ahead of a vital week for his team in which they also face Sevilla in a Champions League knock-out tie and have an FA Cup quarter-final with Brighton.

But he believes the atmosphere of a packed Old Trafford could be a big factor in the game.

“It helps,” he said of playing at home. “At Crystal Palace, I can imagine if we are losing 2-0 and our away fans, how many? 2000? We could feel disapproval, criticism or support.

“Yet 2-0 down and we only felt support and at 2-1 we felt more belief and at 2-2 we felt they want us to go for it. They can help. Old Trafford is a huge majority of Man United fans, so they can help.”

Mourinho confirmed Ivory Coast Eric Bailly is fully fit and in contention to start against Liverpool, while Marouane Fellaini is back in United’s matchday squad after recovering from a knee injury.