On Monday, Wayne Rooney became the latest of a number of big names to criticise the recent form of Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford. With just five goals in 26 appearances this season, the 24-year-old has proven ineffective at leading the line for the Red Devils – a problem that former boss Jose Mourinho identified back all the way back in 2019.
Mourinho, who was in charge at Old Trafford for two-and-a-half years before being sacked in December 2018, has never been shy about voicing his opinion on any subject – and certainly had plenty to say about the state of the club, both during and after his reign.
Not every Mourinho rant on United had sound reasoning behind them but, in hindsight, a number did.
Below, starting with his views on the woefully out-of-form Rashford, we’ve taken a look at seven occasions where Mourinho was pretty much spot on with his comments.
1. Mourinho insisted Marcus Rashford wasn’t suited to a No. 9 role
“To get the record and be Manchester United’s highest goal scorer is f***ing massive,” Rooney told The Sun recently when speaking about Rashford’s long-term potential.
“What I hope is that Marcus Rashford f***ing gets his head out of his a*** and goes and breaks that record. He is a Manchester lad.”
While Rooney might believe that Rashford has all the tools to become the most prolific player in the club’s history, Mourinho was seemingly never convinced by the England international’s ability as a pure striker.
“I am not going to say he cannot ever be a number nine, he can be a dangerous number nine especially if the opposition is not pragmatic, is not close and is giving spaces to attack. He can be dangerous in transitions,” Mourinho explained during an appearance for Sky Sports in 2019, per Goal.
“But when Manchester United is a team that normally plays against teams who go to Old Trafford, close the door, bring the bus, bring the double bus, he is not a striker to play with his back to the goal.
“He is not the target man, he doesn’t score as many goals as a striker should do. So I think from the side you will get him to numbers of 10-12 goals per season.”
A dozen goals per season, won’t get Rashford anywhere close to Rooney’s own record mark of 253 goals for United, which he currently trails by 160 goals.
On present form, it’s tough to argue with Mourinho’s assessment here.
2. Mourinho insisted that United needed a world-class centre-back
In the 2018 summer transfer window -just months before he was relieved of his duties – Mourinho openly fumed at the fact that he hadn’t been allowed to sign a top centre-back to shore up United’s backline.
Numerous targets were reportedly turned down by the club’s hierachy – leaving United with Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo as their options in central defence for the start of the season.
Since Mourinho’s departure, United have invested significant funds to recruit both Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane.
However, those acquisitions haven’t particularly improved United’s defensive fortunes – and many fans would still argue that the Red Devils still need to recruit in the position.
3. Mourinho questioned Anthony Martial’s commitment to the club in 2019
French forward Anthony Martial left Old Trafford for Sevilla in a loan deal until the end of the current season during the January transfer window.
The switch followed months of speculation over the player’s future, which culminated in him reportedly refusing to take his place on the bench when United visited Aston Villa just after the turn of the year.
During a 2019 appearance on Sky Sports, Mourinho indicated that Martial wasn’t as committed to the United cause as other players, even hinting that he preferred to play in a central attacking role, rather than on the wing, as it involved less work.
“I know that Martial likes to play as No. 9 sometimes, I think for the right reasons, sometimes I think for the wrong reasons, but I know he likes to play as a No. 9,” shared Mourinho.
Given how Martial’s United career eventually nosedived, Mourinho likely had a point here.
4. Mourinho believed Scott McTominay would develop into a key player for United if handed the opportunity
While Mourinho was derided for many of his comments about his squad during his time in charge, he had plenty of positivity for United academy product Scott McTominay.
“He is the one that did everything,” Mourinho said of McTominay, as he named the Scotsman his own Player of the Year in 2018.
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“He started the season in the Academy and ends the season playing in big matches, in Premier League derbies and Champions League matches, while becoming an important player for the squad.”
“So I thought this kid cannot go home without an award, so he’s going to get my award.”
The 25-year-old is now a regular in midfield for both club and country, proving that Mourinho’s confidence in him was well placed.
5. Mourinho criticised Paul Pogba’s influence on the Old Trafford dressing room
Just weeks before the end of his United tenure, Mourinho reportedly launched a staggering verbal volley at Paul Pogba in the team’s dressing room following a 2-2 draw at Southampton.
Per The Sun, Mourinho is said to told the Frenchman: “You don’t play, you don’t respect players and supporters and you kill the mentality of good, honest people around you.”
Harsh words indeed.
Whether Mourinho was justified in unleashing that sort of fury at one of his players in a team setting is debatable. However, his Old Trafford form has never consistently been at the level that persuaded United to break the bank in order to re-sign him from Juventus in 2016 – and his refusal to put pen-to-paper on a fresh contract with the club is hardly something that will have promoted harmony or stability within the ranks.
6. Mourinho was hesistant to call on Luke Shaw for first-team action
Throughout his time at United, Mourinho was frequently critical of United left-back Luke Shaw, often publically questioning his claims for first-team opportunities.
Comparing Shaw to others in his squad in 2017, Mourinho revealed: “It is difficult for him to be on the bench. I cannot compare him with Ashley Young, with Matteo Darmian, with Daley Blind. I cannot compare the way he trains, the way he commits, the focus, the ambition. I cannot compare. He is a long way behind.”
Mourinho’s replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t share that sentiment, however, and Shaw regained a regular starting berth under the Norwegian.
Under current United interim boss Ralf Rangnick, though, Shaw has again struggled for playing time, with Diogo Dalot frequently preferred to the England international.
7. Mourinho insisted that finishing second with United in 2017/18 was one of his finest career achievements.
Let’s face it. Mourinho has been incredibly successful down the years. Winning titles in Portugal, England, Spain and Italy, ‘The Special One’ has no shortage of silverware to has name.
Many were therefore taken aback when he referred to United’s Premier League runners-up finish in 2017/18 as one of the greatest triumphs – and demanded more credit for the accomplishment.
Today, the club sit in sixth place in the table – a massive 19 points shy of second placed Liverpool.
The Red Devils haven’t threatened to achieve a similiar finish since and, if anything, look to be regressing.
He was mocked for it at the time, but Mourinho looks to have been right on the mark with this statement. Just four years later, every United fan would surely be overjoyed with a second place finish any time soon.
Marcus Rashford to Arsenal (Via The Football Terrace)
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