Jose Mourinho has told his embattled players to “grow up” and start living up to the pressure of representing Manchester United.
The Portuguese faced heavy criticism over his negative tactics in the Red Devils’ shock Champions League last-16 exit to Sevilla on Tuesday, but came out fighting during an epic 12-minute tirade at a news conference previewing United’s FA Cup quarter-final against Brighton and Hove Albion.
During the embargoed section of his press briefing, though, Mourinho had some choice words for a squad that flopped in Europe and find themselves 16 points adrift of rivals Manchester City in the Premier League.
Mourinho did not go so far as to call out the players he perceives to be under-performing, opting instead to praise Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku, but warned his squad they must be stronger to survive at Old Trafford.
“If you want to make a real top team, with a top mentality, you need to grow up and the best way is to have this kind of feeling,” he said.
“Players have to learn how to cope with that level of expectation and that level of pressure. They have to survive, and when they survive, they become stronger.
“I said we are not one of the top teams, not one of the favourites to win. I told you that with these words because I cannot tell you with different words while I am still in competition.
“I cannot be in a competition, go there and say we have no chance. I couldn’t tell you.
“You cannot expect me to say ‘this and that player, they have to do better’. I prefer to say that Matic and Lukaku are performing at a high level until the last match.
“But I cannot tell you the ones that are not performing. I cannot tell you before a Champions League match.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 16, 2018
Mourinho, though, rejected suggestions that United were favourites to progress against Sevilla, and claimed the team that is fifth in LaLiga are better equipped for success that his squad.
“We went out to a side that’s more successful than Manchester United in the last seven years in Europe,” he added.
“We went out to a side that has a huge tradition in knockout competitions, a side in the Spanish cup final. We’re out to a team that knocked out Atletico Madrid in two legs.
“We were knocked out by a team that’s brilliant in their approach for many years, with their scouting system, the way they invest with every Euro.
“Do you think they didn’t have any players who could play in my team? In Sevilla, there are many players who would play in my team.”
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