Under-fire Jose Mourinho believes some of Manchester United’s players “care more than others” about their poor start to the season.
Trouble has never been far away from Old Trafford in recent months, with pressure increasing by the match as they lurch from one problem to another.
United are in desperate need of a shot in the arm against Valencia in tonight’s Champions League clash, given their draw against Wolves was compounded by a shock Carabao Cup exit to Derby and chastening loss to West Ham.
Saturday’s 3-1 defeat in east London made this the 20-time champions’ worst start to a league campaign since 1989-90, leading to increased talk about the manager’s future and his ability to steer the ship back into calm waters.
Questions over his relationship with star turn Paul Pogba continue to linger, as do the links to former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, yet Mourinho does not believe his job is under threat ahead of this evening’s Group H match.
“No, I don’t think (my job is on the line),” the United boss said, having earlier made light of a report that he was fearing for his job after a call from the Frenchman.
Mourinho redirected the question from a Spanish reporter to the journalist who wrote the story, joking at a packed press conference that he had “put a bug on my telephone”.
The smell of blood meant there was a heavier media presence than usual at Old Trafford, where the players will line up fresh from their manager questioning the attitude of some of them.
Mourinho said some of his group looked upset after the West Ham defeat, but others did not “look like they lost a game” – a point on which he was pushed and he attempted to explain.
He said: “It’s like, sometimes what it looks (like) is exactly the opposite You can be laughing and be the saddest person in the world and you can be with a very sad face and you can be a fantastic actor and inside of you, you are very happy, so sometimes what you see is not what you get.”
Pushed further on the squad’s attitude, Mourinho added: “I think that some care more than others.”
Mourinho, pictured, refused to name names, but it was a striking comment at a time when his relationship with the group is under scrutiny more than ever before.
United greats Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes called into question the players’ attitude at West Ham, but the Portuguese said he will continue to believe they are honest until someone goes on record admitting to anything else.
Mourinho brushed aside concerning statistics and perceptions in Spain, while also refusing to say whether he had spoken to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward in the wake of Saturday’s defeat.
“That’s a private matter,” Mourinho said. “I’m not asking you, ‘Who did you speak to yesterday or this morning?’ or your last phone call. That’s a private matter, I am not going to answer to you.”
Mourinho was more forthcoming on the root of their problems, saying it was a collective issue after Luke Shaw, on the receiving end of so much criticism from the manager last season, claimed the players need to be held accountable for the poor run.
“It is a collective thing,” Mourinho said. “The reason why we don’t win matches is the same reason we win matches – it is the responsibility of everybody.
“The performance on the pitch, in my opinion, is the consequence of many factors.
“Luke Shaw, for example, says, ‘We players are on the pitch, it’s about us, we have to perform, we have to give more’. “I like that perspective, but I don’t agree totally. It’s all of us. Everybody in the club has a role to play – the kit man has a role to play, the nutritionist has a role to play, I have a role to play. Everybody has a role.
“When we win, we all win. When we lose, we all lose. And when we lose, the responsibility I think is the responsibility of everyone.”