Jose Mourinho has called for his players to harden their overall mentality in the coming months.
The 53-year-old, speaking after Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Fenerbahce in the Europa League, labelled his side as mentally fragile after another woeful performance.
Mourinho’s men responded in emphatic fashion on Sunday, cruising to a comfortable 3-1 win over Swansea City in the Premier League.
However the Special One, speaking after the game, insisted that plenty of work still needs to be done.
“The players believe in me and I believe in the players,” he said.
“That has never been the problem. I want to say they were influenced by some culture issues, influenced by a situation that has been going on for a few years.
“There is a difference between the brave, who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for who a little pain can make a difference. If I were to speak with the many great football people of this team, they will say many times they played without being 100%. For the team. For the team you have to do anything. That is my way of seeing.
“Of course, it is not just the players, it is the players and the people that surround the players. Yes, it takes time, but with the help of people like Phil Jones, who was playing without having even trained, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, with these people it will not be an impossible mission but a possible mission.”
Mourinho has added a crucial touch of realism after United’s victory: an encouraging performance, sure, but strolling past a truly woeful Swansea side doesn’t eradicate the underling problem with this current group of players – mental fragility.
To change one’s entire attitude is not an overnight job, of course. This problem germinated over three years ago and it’s been developing ever since. Mourinho inherited an uneasy, confidence-sapped group of players with little chemistry. It is a monumental task that both David Moyes and Louis van Gaal failed to address in any meaningful sense, but Mourinho – crucially – has taken note of it, announcing to the whole world that he knows exactly what holds this group of players back.
It doesn’t take an expert to realise that the first step to true improvement is pin-pointing underlying problems. This applies to anything in life: football, relationships, health problems, your faulty boiler. And Mourinho, much to the delight of United fans, has made this important first step.