The not-so-secret pre-season diary of Jose Mourinho, aged 55-and-a-half
The fun begins in earnest. Speaking four weeks before the Premier League returns, Jose reveals:
“We cannot start the Premier League with our players that were in the World Cup, which is a shame for the most important club competition in Europe [UEFA want a word – Ed.].
“Three weeks, I think, is the minimum that their body and soul need. To bring them back before that would be: ‘OK, I have you for the first match of the season, but maybe I don’t have you in three or four months.’ Three weeks is the minimum they need, which means they’re not going to be back in the week when the Premier League starts, which means they’re not ready to start the Premier League, which is difficult to understand when we could have one more week to prepare everybody.”
Visa issues delay Alexis Sanchez from joining Manchester United’s US tour, which understandably frustrates a manager already worried about other absentees.
“It’s really bad. It is not good for him, for me, for the team, but there’s no one to blame: the club is making the effort and I have to respect the US authorities in their processing of visas. But hopefully he joins us later, because it could be important to work with [Anthony] Martial and [Juan] Mata, the players we have in attack for the start of the season. There’s no [Romelu] Lukaku, no [Jesse] Lingard, no [Marcus] Rashford, so it will be very bad.”
Still, there’s always pride to play for, especially when it’s Manchester United vs Liverpool…
“I’m not worried about playing Liverpool here, or Real Madrid or Milan; I’m not worried if we lose badly. The pre-season is very bad. Everything is really bad – and then we go to the UK and have to play in the Premier League. The broadcasters were not nice to us with the Friday night match, which complicates more things, so I’m worried because I’m not training and then I go to the Premier League without lots of players. But it is what it is and we have to try and make the best of it with the players we have here.”
Seriously, though, he’s not worried about losing – not when Club America and San Jose Earthquakes are fit and firing.
“They [Club America] are at the end of their pre-season, San Jose are in the middle of their season, and Milan come with all of their players because Italy didn’t go to the World Cup. Then Liverpool – I think everybody is here apart from the English ones, [Jordan] Henderson and [Trent Alexander-]Arnold. Maybe not them. But everybody else is.
“With Real Madrid, Spain were knocked out at a very early stage, so everybody is here, too. [Gareth] Bale and [Karim] Benzema didn’t go to the World Cup. So, we are going to face teams with obviously different potential to us. I’m not worried if we lose, even if we lose to some not beautiful numbers.”
After drawing 1-1 with Club America, equalising through Mata, Manchester United draw 0-0 with San Jose Earthquakes – but Alexis Sanchez makes a return. That’s positive, right?
“We are not a team. We’re a group of players from different teams. Some are first team; some, under-23s; some, coming from loans and going on loan; some are younger, under-18s. We don’t have a team to play much better than we did.”
Antonio Valencia picks up a knock.
“He’s injured and I think we need to get used to it. Last season he was already in this type of situation, and this season he will probably have more of it.”
Jose is asked if more signings will follow Diogo Dalot, Fred and Lee Grant to Old Trafford.
“One thing is what I want and another thing is what is going to happen. I would like to be in Los Angeles now and I am in San Jose. I would love to arrive in LA, train in LA and play all five matches in LA, and then don’t travel, don’t change hotel, and go back to Manchester. I would like to play against Leicester on Sunday but I have to play on Friday. In life, you don’t always get what you want.”
On Friday, August 10, Manchester United will host Leicester, 26 days after the World Cup final. With nine United players having reached the last eight in Russia, will Jose’s World Cup stars feature?
“No chance. For me, it is a very strange pre-season. How many of these players [on tour] are going to play the majority of games in the Premier League? Not one handful of them. Pre-season, you try to be motivated and motivate the people around you, but it is not easy. [Evidently – Ed.] To have 10 players away is very strange, so the motivation is to try to train the best we can, give the players minutes and give young players an opportunity to develop – and that’s it.”
A brave journalist asks if Jose can harness Paul Pogba’s World Cup form…
“I don’t think it’s about us getting the best out of him; it’s about him giving the best he has to give.”
Can this Manchester United squad win the Premier League?
“I don’t answer your question.”
In other words…
“I don’t have the majority of the players that are going to be in the squad on August 9 when the market closes and we can make it official. So, of course I’m not happy to have just a few players.”
Phase One – lower expectations – is complete. Phase Two: place high expectations on your rivals…
“I think that if you have the money, then if you invest it well, that is better than to have it in the bank, because the interest rates are very low. Honestly, I think [Liverpool] did very well, because every player they bought is a quality player.
“I’m happy for them. And I’m also happy to smile [about Jurgen Klopp having said in 2016 that he “would do it differently” when United spent £89m on Pogba] and see you can change your opinion and change as a person – it’s funny. That’s OK, but maybe this season, finally you demand they win.
“I think you have to be fair and say, with the investments you made last season, that you made in January, that you make now – because that’ll probably be the Premier League record this season – and as a team that was a Champions League finalist, you have to win.”
Next: July 28 – rejoice!