By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho stormed out of his news conference following Monday’s 3-0 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur, ranting about the three titles he won with Chelsea and demanding “respect” from those reporters present.
Coming shortly after he had stood at length in front of a mainly empty Stretford End applauding United’s fans, it added to a somewhat bizarre epilogue on another miserable night for the 20-times English champions.
“We lost against Sevilla (last season in the Champions League last 16) and we were booed because we deserved it. Today the players left the pitch after losing at home and they were applauded because they deserved it, so we keep trying, trying, trying,” Mourinho said.
“What was the score? This (holding three fingers up). What is this also? Three Premierships I have won, more Premierships than the other 19 managers put together. Me three, them two,” he said. “Respect, respect, respect.”
Perhaps the performance for the media was intended to show his defiance in the face of two defeats from the opening three games of the season.
Maybe he felt that a display of passion would go down well with the supporters at Old Trafford, who, it should be noted, showed no sign of turning against him.
Or was Mourinho just deflecting from the fact that he lacks any answer to the most obvious question facing him — how to sort out a defence that has leaked six goals in two games and was opened up with ease by Spurs after the break?
Mourinho had made it clear during the off-season that he wanted to sign at least one new centre-half and the performances of the five he has employed this season have amply demonstrated he was right.
Eric Bailly was not even on the bench against Spurs, Victor Lindelof came on for the injured Phil Jones and made a series of mistakes and Chris Smalling, who had made a key tackle in the first half to deny Dele Alli, was left standing by Lucas Moura for the third goal.
Exactly why United did not bring in a new player in that department, whether it be Leicester City’s Harry Maguire, Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld or Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng who were all linked with the club, remains unclear.
Mourinho has denied there is a rift with United chief executive Ed Woodward about the lack of transfer activity but there is no straight answer from either party about why the club failed to bring in a new central defender.
What the former Chelsea manager is clear about is that he doesn’t have a clue what combination can sort out the mess.
“No,” he said. “Because in the first game Lindelof and Bailly, now Jones and Smalling but now Jones is injured and in the next match will be Smalling with another one and when Marcos Rojo comes he will also be an option. I don’t know my best back four.”
There isn’t much time for Mourinho to find the right solutions — United are already six points behind the Premier League’s top four — Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford who all have 100 percent records.
It is hard to see this United team challenging for the title but there is a real danger that their poor start could turn into a much a deeper slump.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)