Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho criticised “man-hunting” and “wickedness” against him and his team and said young players such as Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay were struggling to deal with the pressure.
Mourinho was speaking after United came from 2-0 down at half-time against Newcastle to win 3-2, thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s 90th-minute header.
United were woeful in the first half and were two down inside 10 minutes, but looked a completely different team after the interval as Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Sanchez turned the game on its head in the final 20 minutes.
“This is the first time I’ve seen in football man-hunting,” Mourinho told BT Sport. “I am 55. I am mature. I can cope with it and I can live with it. I think, really, some of the boys, in spite of them not being the man that is hunted, I think that they are not coping well with it.
“The way they started the game was absolutely panicking. Every ball that was in our box, I thought even in some moments, we couldn’t even score in our own goal. It’s not easy for them. For me, it’s not easy, too, but I think life is made of experiences and some are new and some are déjà vu, but this is new.”
A run of four games in all competitions without a victory put pressure on Mourinho, who came under increased scrutiny before the game, with the Daily Mirror reporting that he would be sacked regardless of the result on Saturday.
United entered Saturday having taken just 10 points through seven games — their fewest at that stage of a top-flight campaign since 1989.
“I think, not just a better manager, but it makes me even a better person because I understand things in the human nature nowadays and in the industry where I work,” Mourinho said. “I used to love it. I still love it, but it is different. You know, a lot of wickedness. Too much wickedness in something that should be beautiful.
“As I was saying, I cope with it with some sadness, obviously, but I cope with it and I survive. I am mature. I am a big boy. But, clearly, some of the boys — Marcus Rashford was sad on the pitch. Scott McTominay was scared on the pitch. Even some of the players, they commit some mistakes that were not normal.”
Mourinho said the team had a discussion at half-time and though they did not promise to win the game, they did vow to play as well as they could.
“They gave everything, and I don’t want to say we were lucky because we fought so much for that, but I think the boys, they deserve it, even if the result ends with a 2-2,” Mourinho said. “Even if we don’t score the last goal, the feeling would be a positive feeling because as I was saying, nobody can promise to win matches, but the professionals should promise to give everything and that’s what they gave.”
The manager also played down the idea that the players responded to win the game for him.
“I think it’s a ridiculous talk because the players, they do not play for the manager,” Mourinho said. “If they play for the manager, they are not good professionals. Because one day, if they like the manager and they play for them, and the next day comes a manager that they don’t like and they don’t play for him, they still get the money. So, I think it’s a ridiculous talk.”
Mourinho, though, acknowledged that regardless of what happens, he will continue to be a lightning rod for criticism during his time at United.
“As a friend of mine was saying to me this morning, if tomorrow [it] rains in London, it’s my fault,” he said. “I go to London tonight. If tomorrow [it] rains in London, it’s my fault. If there is some difficulty to have the agreement of the Brexit, it’s my fault. I have to be ready for all of this.
“I think a lot of wickedness and the clear man-hunting that I think in football is too much, but as I was saying, it’s my life. It’s the life I love. I worked since I was a kid — I worked for this, and I will love it until my last day, so it’s one more experience in my life.”