LONDON - Jose Mourinho proclaimed himself "a club man" who has never been selfish in his career as he faced up to an escalating crisis at Manchester United. The problems surrounding Mourinho that have spilled over from a difficult summer on tour and in the transfer market are in danger of overshadowing United’s start to the season.
An unconvincing opening win at home to Leicester was followed by a surprise defeat at Brighton last weekend, and Mourinho is a manager under pressure going into tonight’s crucial game against Tottenham at Old Trafford. Another setback this early in the season would inevitably turn up the heat on the 55-year-old and his executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who has not escaped the flak for the issues affecting the club.
Crucially, the fans have yet to turn on Mourinho, even though some have paid to fly a protest banner against Woodward over Turf Moor when United play at Burnley on Sunday, The manager welcomed their support, but insisted it was for the sake of the team, not for himself.
That may come as a surprise to those who have followed his career closely as well as the recent events at Old Trafford. Mourinho has certainly not been afraid of publicising his differences with Woodward and his awkward relationships with Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial.
"The supporters were fantastic in both matches," he said. "Not for me, for the team which is the only thing that matters. In my career I was never selfish and thinking about myself, I was always a club man. That’s what I am. I am really happy when the supporters support the team.
"For fans to be supportive of the team against Brighton, when we didn’t play well and lost the match, gives you a fantastic feeling. The players also feel it and they are ready to give them everything they have."
In other respects, Mourinho maintained his moody demeanour in the build-up to what has become an even more significant game against Spurs. A press conference lasting just three minutes and 22 seconds was shorter even than his tetchy four-minute exchange with the broadcast media.
He refused to discuss Tottenham’s decision not to sign any new players this summer or his feelings about the state of United’s squad after £75m of investment — "you know my answer" was the curt response - perhaps wary of the potentially unfavourable comparison. Mourinho’s only other answer of note came when he was asked if it was frustrating to do so well against top-six rivals last season but drop points against lesser clubs.
"No, it is not a frustration," he said. "It would also be a frustration if we won every match against the non top-six teams and didn’t win against the top six. We want to win all the time. We want to play well all the time. We don’t want to make mistakes. That is what you always want."