Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is playing hardball with stars like Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw because he doesn’t think player power can get him the sack at Old Trafford.
Bolstered by a new contract signed in January, Mourinho is convinced he has the full support of United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and the club’s board which means any dressing-room dissenters will be forced out before him.
Mourinho has gone to war with some of his players in the last few weeks.
He has dropped his most expensive signing, £89million-man Pogba, and hooked England defender Shaw at half-time against Brighton last weekend with the withering explanation: ‘I wanted to defend better.’
United players have noticed the friction between France international Pogba and Mourinho with the pair rarely engaging.
The midfielder is believed to be fuming over his treatment and a clumsy attempt to interrupt Mourinho’s TV interview after their victory against Liverpool failed to amuse the manager.
Although United finished sixth last season, Mourinho was rewarded for getting them back into the Champions League via the Europa League by extending his contract in January to keep him in charge until 2020 at least.
Despite anxiety from some people at United that Mourinho is poisoning the club’s name, Woodward is understood to be happy with the manager and intrigued by the aggressive way in which he goes about his business.
He is looking to reshape his defence and midfield this season and will demand improvements from January signing Alexis Sanchez, who is expected to provide the firepower alongside Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
Douglas Costa, Ivan Perisic, Danny Rose, Brazil midfielder Fred and Patrick Kluivert’s son Justin have all been linked while Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar may also want to leave French football this summer.
Matteo Darmian, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind are all also likely to depart.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined Los Angeles Galaxy last week and club captain Michael Carrick has announced his retirement from playing at the end of the season when he is set to join Mourinho’s coaching staff.