Must-read: Check out our big interview with Jose
Ahead of Sunday's trip to Brighton, Reds boss Jose Mourinho sat down with MUTV's Helen Evans to discuss all things Manchester United in a fascinating and wide-ranging exclusive interview.
Among other things, the manager discussed the new season, revealed how Fred is settling in, dismissed stories being written in the press as 'lies' and gave us the latest team news update for the meeting with the Seagulls.
Watch an exclusive clip below and read what the boss has had to say in full...
Over the summer, there have been improvements to the changing rooms at the training ground and Old Trafford. How pleased are you with those?
I’m really happy. I’m not saying we had it bad but I always thought, since the beginning, that we need an update and improvement. It’s not so easy, especially at Old Trafford because of the dimensions , but after some studying of them and work behind the scenes, and a big effort over the summer, when we arrived at the training ground it was so, so beautiful and a nice surprise for everyone. And then almost in extra time, in added time, people managed with an extra effort to have Old Trafford ready for the first match. It’s beautiful and comfortable and a great feeling.
There have been changes in the backroom staff too, with Michael Carrick, Kieran McKenna and Stefano Rapetti coming on board. You’ve said before that your staff become your family, is it like having three new members?
I’m really happy. I miss my friend Rui [Faria] but not my assistant because friends you cannot replace, friends are friends forever. But, within your staff, you can replace and we did it in a fantastic way because, in the end, we have three new members. One was my player, so I had a good knowledge of him and of course he is in his beginnings as a coach but with great potential to develop. Another was my assistant in Inter [Stefano], so I already know all his qualities as a fitness coach and also as a good man. Kieran was a young coach who worked closely in the building and I know he didn’t have the experience of being with first-team guys, but he had the experience of coaching, so I think all three together, plus the other staff, we have a really good staff and great motivation from the new people and I think the players are very pleased too.
You must get fed up of the stories that are written constantly about the club. I come to the Aon Training Complex at Carrington and it’s always such a relaxed and enjoyable place to be and you must feel that too…
I don’t like lies. When people disagree with me – pundits, journalists… it’s not a drama for me, it’s something I’ve learnt to respect. It’s part of the game. But the lies are something that I really don’t like. And I think it goes against the ethics of the job. When you are a journalist, I think you want to inform and you want to inform the truth, or you are an opinion-maker and you have your own opinion. But the lies go against things. And many lies have been said and written. And it’s just as you say, you have come here many times and I can promise that the life here at the ATC is a good life. People have good relations, the players are polite, educated people, not just with me and the [coaching] staff but with everybody and that’s a beautiful thing because here we treat the people that are here, in reception, in the kitchen, everyone… we treat them all the same way. I think everyone is happy in relation to that social life we have here and it’s something that I really enjoy and respect, and it hurts a little bit when the lies go in the direction of these problems that are not true.
You’ve mentioned before you signed Fred that a team is not a team without a Brazilian in it, now you’ve got two in Fred and Andreas?
Andreas is half-Brazilian with a big influence of European football! The nature and DNA is there though, you are right. I think Fred already with only 70/75 minutes at Old Trafford, I think people already like him. People can already feel his positive influence on the team and on the style of football that the team wants to play. When we brought him here, we knew he could influence the dynamic because he could attract other people to follow him in the way he thinks football and the way he likes to play football. So we are really happy. And a part of that is his character, he’s a good guy to have around, a funny guy and a guy who always has a smile on his face. He doesn’t speak good English but he speaks with everyone and understands everyone and they understand him. He’s a really, really good guy and he brought new music to the place because we were a bit tired of [David] De Gea and Ashley Young’s music all the time! [Smiles]
There are two avenues for a young player to make it into the first team, coming straight through the ranks like we saw with Scott McTominay or getting some experience on loan like Andreas Pereira has. He’s returned as a first-team player after a couple of loan spells, how pleased are you to see that and what can younger players in the Academy take from the likes of him and Scott?
The young players in this club, in spite of people [externally] trying not to speak too much about it [that we bring young players through], just in the first match of the season against Leicester, Manchester United had on the pitch more Academy players with more minutes than some other phenomenal teams in the Premier League that buy everything but nothing comes from the foundations. Money buys and they buy. We had, on the pitch, Andreas Pereira, [Paul] Pogba, [Marcus] Rashford and Scott. [Jesse] Lingard was not selected because he’d only just got back, but he will be. And nowadays, with the way football is, I think it’s a fantastic thing and I like that feeling in the team. I like that connection. We try to do it. I don’t think it’s possible every season but we try to do what Mr van Gaal did in his last year with Rashford and then the next season appeared Scott McTominay and now we brought Andreas back. I think it’s an area where we have to try to improve because we want to keep Manchester United at that level. We also need to improve our scouting system and our loan system and we need to have players ready to be back, like it happened with Andreas, and it looks like he has come back to stay.
Do you feel like the improvement of players is often overlooked? People just want more and more players but don’t always see what we have and how those players have improved, just like Andreas has?
Yes. I think, with Andreas, it was a good process for him. If he stayed here last season probably what is happening now to him could probably happen one season ago. But the decision to have one more loan was not a bad decision, especially from a human point of view. By the football point of view, he could probably even have had a better evolution here than he had at Valencia. Why? Because at Valencia he was playing right-winger, left-winger, right-midfielder, left-midfielder, so I think to be what he is, which is a no.6 or a no.8, is much, much better with the specific work he has here. But by the human point of view and I also read a few quotes from some interviews he gave. I see he has become more of a man. He goes to a different country on his own, no family, no friends, learns a new language, a new lifestyle, a new culture of football… it was a complex and complete process for him. It was different to the one McTominay and Rashford had but we, as a club, are really happy that in each of the past three years, we managed to get one player to come in [to the first team] and to stay. There are some clubs who give the debuts to players but then the players disappear and nobody knows where he is. He might be in the stats but where is he?! Nobody knows. With these three boys – Marcus, Scott and Andreas, they are first-team players, they are not numbers, they are options, they are players that are here to play. That is fantastic for us because we managed to do it in every season.
Unfortunately for any new Leicester City fans we might have in the room (!), you continued your amazing opening-day record as a manager which is exceptional. How important is it to start the season with not just three points but confidence from the match as well?
Look, it’s fantastic but the two seasons where I won the Treble, I started both championships not winning. So it’s important but it’s not fundamental. You can be successful and not win your first match. Both times, with Porto and Inter, in my first match I drew both and, in the end, we won everything. It was good though [to win] especially as our pre-season was not good, we had no World Cup players to work with due to the success of our players in Russia. It brought them back later. We also had unexpected injuries and unexpected surgeries and we had players that trained only for the first three days before the first match of the season. It was hard. But when you finish the game and have the feeling of, not just getting the three points, but that we did well and that people in the stands reacted to good things being on the table [from us] then it made us really happy and gave us confidence for a good week. This week, hopefully, will end well but the reality is it has been a good week.
You’ve got the best win ratio [62 per cent] of any manager in our history and the lowest loss ratio [17.36 per cent]. Were you aware of that?
No, I am not aware. I know it’s good, but I wasn’t aware.
You’ve had your players together properly for a week or two now – do you feel it’s time for everyone to now be embedded in the team and ready to go after a long summer apart?
Yes. When we arrive from pre-season and the other guys reported to training, immediately we could feel happiness. We could feel that the friends are again together. Today I had a conversation that I don’t like to have, but I needed to have with the players, when I was speaking about the frustrations they are going to feel because, for example, for the next match, I can only select 16 in-field players. And there are in this moment 21 in perfect condition to play and working amazingly well. And I don’t want them to let these frustrations that are going to come each week to interfere with their happiness, their group and the way they have to fight together during the season. The group is really good and the guys are really happy to be together and to work together and, for me, it’s so easy to work with them because of that but I know that we have to deal with frustrations because that’s football players’ nature. When they play, they are happy. When they don’t play, they are not very happy so we need to deal with that during the season, but knowing that there is great empathy in the group.
Does that get any easier to explain to players when you have to leave them out?
No. They will understand sooner or later, Michael Carrick knows now! [Smiles] He knows now and, when you are part of that world, then they will understand. I have now already one generation of players who are not playing anymore, my generation of Porto players now, they have all finished as players. So many of them whenever we speak on a call, or SMS, or if I meet them, so many conversations are about the way they were thinking when they were players and the way they think now as manager or a coach or another role in football. But when the group is strong, we can cope with these frustrations and we can keep everybody ready which is the objective, to keep everyone ready for when they’re needed because, in the end, the contribution comes from everybody.
There are smiles all around as the squad prepares for Brighton away.
We have Brighton away this weekend – do you have any injury updates?
No, we are the same with the same players. Antonio Valencia and [Nemanja] Matic, they are training with the group and, next week, they will be available. Jesse Lingard, even this week maybe is available, but we are basically the same guys. But I believe we are in better conditions. For example, the effort Paul [Pogba] made in the last match to play, he doesn’t need that effort for this match because after six sessions of training he is much, much better. [Romelu] Lukaku and [Marcus] Rashford and [Marouane] Fellaini, these guys who played 20 minutes after three days of training, now it’s after nine days of training, so this week was good for us. The last week, we were a little bit in trouble and not happy that we had to play on the Friday but, this week, we play on the Sunday and this week was a good long week to work.
What sort of game are you expecting?
First of all, we lost there last season, near the end of the season. That is a good starting point for us to start preparing for the match. They have the same team and are better as they have invested in a few new players. It will be difficult, they’re a difficult team to play. They have a beautiful stadium and amazing crowd, it’s a good place to play football and a beautiful place to spend a few hours on the Saturday, everything is good. They lost the first match and they won’t be happy about that. They didn’t play very well and Chris [Hughton] knows that better than me so they will improve for sure and give us a difficult match.