Manchester – Jose Mourinho on Friday denied a rift with executive vice-chairperson Ed Woodward despite growing speculation over the power structure at Manchester United.
The manager turned up for his weekly pre-match press conference 30 minutes early, ensuring most reporters were not even in attendance, and was clearly in no mood to answer questions about United’s difficult start to the season.
A testing summer, in which Woodward failed to deliver Mourinho’s transfer targets, has been followed by apparent difficulties between the United manager and French World Cup winner Paul Pogba.
Pogba has made enigmatic comments, suggesting he is not happy at Old Trafford, while his controversial agent Mino Raiola seemed to worsen the situation with a social media outburst against United great Paul Scholes.
Mourinho was tense and terse in his replies to questions on those topics in a press conference that lasted just eight minutes and was supposed to preview United’s next Premier League game, at home to Tottenham on Monday.
But Mourinho, at least, claimed that his relationship with Woodward remained intact. When asked if his relationship with Woodward was “fine” Mourinho would only answer: “Of course”.
And when quizzed further on whether there was a problem with the United executive, Mourinho responded: “No”.
The veteran manager was equally unforthcoming when asked about Pogba who claimed, on Sunday after a defeat at Brighton, that his attitude was not “right” in the game.
“Paul said it, so he has to answer for his words,” said Mourinho. “If you want any explanation about Paul’s words you must get him and ask him.”
The mood around Mourinho certainly summed up a difficult week for the club, which started with a poor performance in a 3-2 defeat at Brighton, a result that followed an unconvincing 2-1 home win against Leicester on the opening weekend.
But Mourinho bristled – not for the first time – at suggestions it had been a bad week for his club.
“No,” he said. “I think ‘difficult’. Difficult is after the match you lose, it is always difficult, especially for people that really care about the job, about being a football professional.
“But after that, you think about the next match. You do the same when you win, you have to move on and focus on what is next and when you lose you have to do even more.”
Experienced Mourinho-watchers will draw comparisons with his behaviour towards the end of his second reign at Chelsea, when his press conferences became similarly monosyllabic affairs, although the United manager claimed he does not read or listen to the football media.
“Don’t ask me because I don’t read, I don’t know 10 percent of what is written, of what is coming on TV screens, so I’m not the right guy to answer it,” he said.
At least Mourinho had better news on the injury front with Antonio Valencia and Nemanja Matic, both of whom missed the opening two games, back in full training on Friday.