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Mourinho refuses to ‘play the game’ over reported ‘without character’ comments

He was speaking ahead of Saturday’s Premier League home clash with Crystal Palace.

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during the press conference at the Aon Training Complex, Manchester.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during the press conference at the Aon Training Complex, Manchester.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during the press conference at the Aon Training Complex, Manchester.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has refused to “play the game” and expand on comments made in a recent interview where he appeared to suggest some of his players lacked character.

Mourinho was quoted by Univision as saying in an interview with the Spanish-language broadcaster that some of his young players were “without character”, and it was reported that Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were those he had mentioned in that context.

When asked at a press conference on Friday about the interview, Mourinho said: “I don’t play your game. I don’t play the game of take out of context and do what you want.

“I don’t play the game. I have nothing to say.”

Mourinho’s response to two further questions on the matter were “I don’t lose my time playing that game” and “next question”.

He later spoke about his happiness with the progress England internationals Lingard, Rashford and Luke Shaw have made during his time with United.

Mourinho said: “If I look to where they were and I look to where they are, of course I am happy.

“Lingard, Shaw and Rashford – I don’t think (England manager) Gareth Southgate and (assistant boss) Steve Holland will be upset with me if I say they are more than a choice for them. They are almost selected just by the fact they are not injured and available.

“They conquered a position in their group. I believe that if tomorrow we have a World Cup or Euro, they are in their group of 24.

“And in our club, we see the number of matches that they are playing.

“The evolution was good for them, they are better players now and they play at a higher level. Of course we are happy.”

Mourinho was speaking ahead of Saturday’s Premier League home clash with Crystal Palace and said Paul Pogba, who missed the 3-1 loss at Manchester City on November 11 through a “small muscular injury”, was available for the contest.

Romelu Lukaku, Martial, Rashford and Marouane Fellaini are also ready to be involved after question marks during the international break over whether they would be fit.

Mourinho said Lukaku, who has had a hamstring issue, was “ready, with a little bit of a risk, but ready”.

The defeat to leaders City left eighth-placed United 12 points behind their neighbours and Mourinho’s men are seven points behind fourth-placed Tottenham.

The Portuguese was asked if he still believed United would be around the top four by the end of the year, and said: “I know it’s a big gap but I also know, until the end of December, if I’m not wrong, we have eight Premier League matches to play, and eight Premier League matches, we are speaking about 24 points.

“Twenty-four points for us to fight (for), 24 points for the other ones that are in the top four to fight (for) too, but I believe we are going to be there.”

Prior to the loss against City, United had won three games in a row – 2-1 victories against Everton and at Bournemouth in the Premier League and at Juventus in the Champions League.

Mourinho, whose side host Young Boys in their next Champions League game on Tuesday, said: “Of course we need points, of course we need results, of course we need performances. (It) is up to us.

“We were playing well and getting good results until the end of the last period. Of course we lost the last match but I don’t consider (it) at all a bad performance.

“We were in a good moment, we were playing well, so why not to stay the same, to improve and to get good results?”

Mourinho also said he did not know whether it was correct that United had opened contract talks with defender Chris Smalling, as has been reported.

United have been fined £6,247 by UEFA after a supporter invaded the pitch during last month’s clash with Juventus.

PA