It’s still July, and Jose Mourinho is making excuses about Manchester United’s first two Premier League matches this season. I repeat, it’s July, and they haven’t even played those matches yet.
United’s Premier League season is still over two and a half weeks away. Hell, Manchester United’s pre-season International Champions Cup campaign hasn’t even kicked off yet. And yet, here we are.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of Manchester United’s International Champions Cup match against AC Milan Tuesday, Mourinho managed to check off a whole bunch of boxes on the proverbial ‘Jose Mourinho press conference bingo’ board.
This edition was mainly focused on Mourinho vetting his frustration with Ed Woodward for not signing all the players that he has demanded of him just yet, but he also found time to take (more) shots at his star player Paul Pogba, and to make excuses for why United might slip up in their first two Premier League games. When he was ultimately asked if he thinks his team can win the league, Mourinho replied by saying “I won’t answer that question.”
Mourinho has always been a manager quick to take the praise when his team is winning and quick to throw his players under the bus when they lose.
This is nothing new from Mourinho of course, but what is new is the timing. Usually in the summer time Mourinho is bright and witty, getting people excited about the new dawn of the season ahead. Only as the season progresses does Mourinho start playing the blame game.
There have already been some big red flags for Manchester United heading into the season. For starters, through two pre-season friendlies, none of their players look particularly happy to be back and playing for Manchester United. That’s an issue.
A bigger issue is the results of those friendlies, a 1-1 draw against Liga MX side Club America, and a 0-0 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes, the team with the worst record in MLS.
Say what you want about pre-season friendlies but here’s the truth, if you’re one of the top European teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, or Chelsea and you’re playing MLS sides, you have to win those games. If you win 7-0 you take it with a grain of salt, but if you can’t win those games, that’s a red flag.
In Mourinho’s final season with Chelsea, the Blues didn’t win a single pre-season friendly. It was a sign of things to come and Mourinho was out of a job by December.
What’s more astonishing is how Mourinho has handled the results, already trying to deflect blame after the draw with San Jose.
Jose Mourinho on Man Utd's 0-0 draw with San Jose:
— bwin (@bwin) July 23, 2018
I can understand why Mourinho feels that way. It’s just the team’s second game. A lot of the players are just learning how to play with one another for the first time. When you look at the starting XI for this match, you’ll see that the players only made, *checks math, double checks the math* 257 combined 1st team appearances for Manchester United last year.
Hm, if those players still can’t play together, that’s probably on the manager.
But that’s not even the worst thing that Mourinho did. In typical Mourinho fashion, he took a moment to talk about how difficult United’s first two games against LEICESTER and BRIGHTON would be, because a lot of his players have yet to return from the World Cup, while Leicester would only be missing Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire.
I’m sorry, what?
Considering that Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, and Danny Drinkwater have all left the club, can a casual fan even name another player on Leicester besides Vardy and Maguire? And Mourinho is scared of them?
Meanwhile, take a look at the starting XI Mourinho fielded for the team’s first friendly against Club America.
Lee Grant, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Demetri Mitchell.
That’s a whopping nine senior players, including last season’s “Managers Player of the Year” Scott McTominay, in the starting XI, when Mourinho is complaining about not having any of his players. For the next game, Alexis Sanchez joined up with the team. This past Monday, so did Nemanja Matic. By the time the Leicester match comes around, David de Gea will be back with the team as well.
With no disrespect to Leicester, if you can’t beat them with those players, that’s not on the players, that’s on you.
But that of course is what Mourinho does. He’s the only man that can complain that he’s missing seven first teamers because they were so good they helped their teams make the semifinals and finals of the World Cup while also saying that his players simply aren’t good enough.
This is what Mourinho sounds like when his shtick is starting to grow tired. This is why he never lasts somewhere more than three years. Mourinho’s players are plenty good, and the issue with Manchester United is him, not them. That’s why he’s making the excuses now. He’s trying to protect himself so that when things do go bad he can save face and continue to toot his own horn.
Because if you haven’t figured it out by now, Jose Mourinho only cares about one thing; Jose Mourinho.