Jose Mourinho praised Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj as a “fantastic player” whose composure makes him look 25 rather than 18.
Often seen as an old managerial mind game ahead of facing an in-form player, Mourinho’s words will at the very least place further focus on the 18-year-old Belgium-born winger ahead of what is his biggest game in a United shirt so far at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
Judging from Mourinho’s enthusiastic comments, however, he has the personality to deal with it.
“Fantastic player, fantastic player,” Mourinho repeated. “He’s not 18, he’s 25. He’s the kind of player that... so mature and so comfortable.
“I think he’s a very good player, with great conditions to have a long-term career at United. Of course, I don’t know the boy individually, I’m not in his day-by-day but it looks like [this].”
Mourinho again refused to make comparisons with his former Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo once asked, as has been the case when questioned in a similar way about Eden Hazard.
“This was 10 years ago, I don’t remember how Cristiano was at 18.”
It is even longer, however, since Chelsea produced their own academy graduate who has become a first-team regular. That has accentuated short-term perceptions about the club and Mourinho, and the manager believes it must change.
“It’s very important. It’s something I really want to happen,” he said. “We are working in the academy. The transitional period is the most difficult one in football.”