There was a prefatory compliment from Jose Mourinho when he began to discuss Luke Shaw in Old Trafford’s tight press conference room late on Tuesday night and that is why the calmly articulated evisceration that was to follow caught you momentarily off guard and, even by this manager’s standards, was stunning.
“He had a good performance,” Mourinho said of Shaw before the cold assassination in which the Manchester United manager told us that the substitute, who had been given 25 minutes to prove himself, had not seemed to have an original thought in his head.
“He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him,” Mourinho said. “The communication was possible because we were very close. We need at this level the fantastic body he has to play football, the fantastic physical qualities and technical but he cannot play with my brain…” This critique was so pre-calculated that it came with one of those sound bites that Mourinho is always able to reach for. “It was his body with my brain,” he said.
Manchester United 1 Everton 1 player ratings
Manchester United 1 Everton 1 player ratings
1/22 David de Gea – 4 out of 10
So often the saviour, could have done more to prevent Jagielka’s peculiar goal, like closing his legs for starters.
2/22 Ashley Young – 7 out of 10
Offered more offensively than most and tested Everton’s defence with several crosses, but his team-mates failed to make them count.
3/22 Marcos Rojo – 4 out of 10
A more assertive centre-half would have clattered Jagielka and won the header that lead to the goal. Too often, Rojo is not that centre-half.
4/22 Eric Bailly – 6 out of 10
Dealt with Lukaku in the brief moments he threatened United’s backline on a largely quiet night for the hosts’ defence.
5/22 Daley Blind – 5 out of 10
Ineffective going forward first half, hauled off for Paul Pogba at half-time.
6/22 Ander Herrera – 7 out of 10
One of United’s brighter sparks but even so, should have done better than hit the bar when latching onto the rebound of Blind’s first half free-kick.
7/22 Michael Carrick - 6 out of 10
Struggled to have an impact and often too conservative in his passing when United needed a fresh impetus.
8/22 Marouane Fellaini – 4 out of 10
The many United supporters who believe he simply should not be in this team had their arguments boosted. Offers little more than a target on set pieces and a mistimed tackle.
9/22 Jesse Lingard – 4 out of 10
Like Fellaini, a display to fuel his critics. Wasteful in the first-half, largely anonymous in the second.
10/22 Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 5 out of 10
Still misses far too many opportunities for a frontman of his quality. Could have got United off to a perfect start but fluffed his lines.
11/22 Marcus Rashford – 4 out of 10
A night where his relative inexperience showed. Has good grace and plenty of time on his side to improve, at least.
12/22 Joel Robles – 8 out of 10
Recovered from a shaky display in the Merseyside derby to impress. Best save came when acrobatically denying Blind from a free-kick.
13/22 Mason Holgate – 7 out of 10
Mature performance from the youngster. Poked a low cross away from Rashford’s toes to keep it 1-0 towards the end of the first half.
14/22 Phil Jagielka – 7 out of 10
A quite remarkable finish for his goal and coped well defensively, although aided by United’s lack of pace in forward positions.
15/22 Ashley Williams – 4 out of 10
It was all going so well until that late handball. The Wales international wins a lot of plaudits, but this was another mistake in a debut Everton season peppered with them.
16/22 Leighton Baines – 6 out of 10
Played his part in a solid defensive display, but would perhaps have had more problems if facing the rested Antonio Valencia.
17/22 Idrissa Gueye – 6 out of 10
Swept up and stifled United attacks alongside Barry, though Herrera had the better of him at times.
18/22 Gareth Barry – 8 out of 10
The key man in Everton’s backs-to-the-wall resistance, did not mind getting a little dirty. Will have enjoyed one ‘experienced’ challenge on Rashford.
19/22 Tom Davies – 7 out of 10
No doubt buoyed by his new contract, the youngster was much better than at Anfield. Showed movement and intelligence breaking into the final third.
20/22 Ross Barkley – 6 out of 10
Another player who improved from Anfield, but in Barkley’s case it was not hard. If you’re being harsh, showed little creativity, but battled well.
21/22 Kevin Mirallas – 6 out of 10
Brought more invention to the line-up having sat out the majority of the derby. He and Lukaku were not on the same wavelength at times, however.
22/22 Romelu Lukaku – 5 out of 10
At times guilty of not holding the ball up well enough and inviting pressure on his team, but his all-round display was an unselfish one for the cause.
The whole business was over in a minute or so – 150 words at most – and at the end you reflected on all the words the manager has expended on the subject of Shaw this week and wondered if any young player has ever been subject to quite such vilification by one manager in the public arena. Well, Roberto Mancini could dig individuals out at times but nothing like this. It is a humiliation quite apart and any pretence that it is a way of toughening up a 21-year-old vanished weeks ago.
As of Tuesday, Shaw knows that he has to play while listening for instructions from his manager - but not listening too much. There is no disrespect in saying that a “fantastic body” is not the description most observers would have for Shaw’s physique and you have to suspect Mourinho, who used the adjective twice, was employing disguised irony about the full-back’s metabolism. As if the youngster’s mind was not scrambled enough.
There is always a motive with Mourinho. Every utterance in his press conference arena has a purpose and what seems to lie behind the choreography is this manager’s desire to be characterised and seen as the arch manipulator and motivator, deftly using the public arena to pull the strings. There seems to be more of this discourse from him than ever. Jesse Lingard, Chris Smalling, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba are just a few on the receiving end. Even before Tuesday’s game, Mkhitaryan and Pogba were slated: dropped from the starting XI because of previous inadequacies.
Oddly, Mourinho went the other way with Bastian Schweinsteiger, issuing a mea culpa to say that in retrospect he could have used him more. Possible motive? Mourinho would not have wanted an individual of the German’s standing in football to be an implacable enemy.
This string-pulling is fine if the going is good but United’s is not. Their famous ‘20-game unbeaten run’ is a smoke screen, since 10 of those 20 games were draws. United may ultimately drop more points at Old Trafford than in any Premier League season: 21 already, six short of the 27 in the David Moyes season, with Chelsea still to visit in an extremely challenging run-in.
Last Saturday’s attack on Shaw by Mourinho actually obscured the most shocking part of his discussion after the goalless draw with West Brom: the Portuguese’s admission that he would know by the end of this weekend whether he must prioritise the Europa League over the Premier League. Had Moyes discussed tossing off the league campaign with eight games to play, he would have been lynched.
Mourinho is too bound up with himself to locate in the history books how the managerial greats like Sir Alex Ferguson and Bob Paisley dealt with players they considered to be failing for them. Unflinching brutality could be part of it. Both would cast a player off at a stroke. But it was club business. The outside world never knew.
“After a game I would always try to avoid criticising the players,” Ferguson said after he had retired. “They had enough pressure, without me piling it on in public. I save my criticism for the private sessions away from prying eyes. I tried to employ heat shields to deflect criticism from a player who had misplaced a pass that gave away a goal, or another who had missed a sitter that could have won us a game.”Reuse content