MANCHESTER — Life couldn’t have started much better for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.
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Three wins from his first three competitive games has seen Mourinho win the FA Community Shield and now beat Bournemouth and Southampton in the Premier League with United top of the table on six points.
It’s still early days but there are promising signs.
The Portuguese coach has a veteran striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, on fire with four goals in three games and world-record signing Paul Pogba made his debut and dazzled with individual moments of magic on Friday.
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Yet, Mourinho isn’t totally happy. He revealed that going into the dressing room after the game to celebrate the win he was happy, but he was sad as he saw star names in suits, not even tracksuits as part of the match day squad.
Speaking to the media post-game, Mourinho revealed that he is hoping to play the rest of his players in September when the Europa League and Capital One Cup games come around.
“I need September because the relations can be good, the players can be great professionals but a player is a player and when he doesn’t play one game, two, three… the frustration comes,” Mourinho explained. “It is difficult to train well and when they don’t train well I have a reason not to select and they go downhill. So I need September, Fosu-Mensah, Rojo, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Depay, Rashford, we have a big top-quality squad.”
One of the players many believed wouldn’t even make it into Mourinho’s squad this season is Marounae Fellaini.
The Belgian international has shone in midfield in the last two games and Mourinho revealed something he did on his first day as United manager may be the reason for Fellaini’s upturn in form.
“Maybe a simple phone call can make a difference,” Mourinho said. “A player that was feeling not loved. A player that the season and when the market opened, everybody was saying he was leaving and was not a player for me. Maybe a simple phone call the day after my presentation as Manchester United manager changed a lot because I told him, forget everything you read. For me you don’t leave for sure. Then I think the more organised the team play, the easier for the players to feel confident. He is playing well, with Carrick, with Herrera, with Paul. I think he is full of confidence but I have so many good players.”
One of those “good players” is also Pogba. Of course.
After giving the ball away with his first touch in front of an expectant United crowd the French international grew into the game, powering forward at every opportunity and dazzling with clever flicks.
“He was fantastic,” Mourinho said. “His first action was bad, he loses an easy ball and gives a counter-attack and a free kick to the opponent. You can see even more the ego, the personality, he is so comfortable under that skin of a star. He is so confident in the way he plays. For 10 days work, first match of the season, not even 10 minutes of a friendly, I think he played phenomenal.”
Asked if Mourinho would play Pogba in that position on the inside left of central midfield, Mourinho joked that all he told Pogba to do was “play” and “he didn’t know what position” Pogba played in.
What position will get the best out of him?
“I don’t know,” Mourinho joked. “We have to build a certain organization around but he has to play free. For a player to play with the freedom he has. We have to build a certain organization around him. The moment we lose the ball we have to be protected. The moment he starts his movement forward, even when the team is protected in the first phase, we need to bring other players to the first phase. He has to play with freedom. Of course last 10 minutes 2-0, now more tactical organization but this is the kind of guy who has to play free. I think he bought a lot to the team. So good.”