It has been five years since Jose Mourinho singled out four Manchester United players by saying they lacked the “character” and “personality” he desired – and three of those individuals are still at Old Trafford.
Back in November 2018, United were going through a difficult spell when then-manager Mourinho decided to play a risky move.
Speaking in an interview with Univision, a US Spanish-language TV channel, the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ was asked by Barcelona legend Hristo Stoichkov about his “diamonds” [youth players] at United and what they were lacking to compete at the highest level.
Mourinho would go on to name Luke Shaw – a player he had previously ousted on numerous occasions – as someone who didn’t know how to compete before naming Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard as others who needed to step up their game.
“They are lacking maturity,” he said. “When I say that, I mean maturity at a personal level. We [talking to interviewer Hristo Stoichkov] are more men, we are more mature, we were more prepared to face life. We were less protected. In England, they call it ‘spoilt’.”
Mourinho added: “Today, we’re talking about ‘spoilt kids’. Our children are more ‘spoilt’ than we were.
“I think kids these days have a different social life than us, and players have around them an ‘entourage’, and I mean a personal entourage, the people that surround them, that protect them more, give them more affection, more excuses. They reach maturity more slowly.
“For example, this kid, Luke Shaw, who is currently the national team’s left-back, when I arrived here two years ago, he didn’t know how to compete. He had great potential, yes, but he didn’t know how to compete.
“When we talk about Luke Shaw, [Anthony] Martial, [Jesse] Lingard, [Marcus] Rashford, we’re talking about kids with great potential but still lack a word I can’t say but that you like a lot… they lack a bit of that.
“Character, personality, as they say in Spain as well, bad blood, that natural aggression that you had.”
A month after the interview with Stoichkov, Mourinho was sacked from his post at Old Trafford following a defeat to Liverpool that left United eleven points adrift of the Premier League top four.
Shaw, Rashford and Martial remain on the books at United, who currently sit ninth in the league table. Jesse Lingard, on the other hand, is a free agent after being released by Nottingham Forest last year.
Mourinho, meanwhile, is also on the lookout for a new project after leaving Italian side AS Roma in January.
In fact, the 61-year-old is eyeing a shock return to Old Trafford, according to reports, as he believes he has ‘unfinished business’ at the Premier League club.
The Daily Mail suggest Mourinho is keen to work with the new regime at United, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS taking over football operations as part of the businessman’s 25 per cent investment in the club.