Manchester United will have played 64 matches so far this season by the time Europa League final is finished next Wednesday night at the Friends Arena in Stockholm and with limited first-team players available at Jose Mourinho’s disposal due to injury, the Portuguese tactician has been petulant like never before in recent weeks.
Long-term injury to the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo has forced Mourinho into ‘a la carte’ team selection with youths drafted into the first team for games against Arsenal, Tottenham and most recently Southampton.
However, following United’s goalless draw at St Mary’s on Wednesday night, former Liverpool midfielder turned pundit Graeme Souness went ballistic on Mourinho’s complaints about Manchester United’s congested schedule, insisting he never felt tired as a professional footballer.
Souness accused the former Chelsea boss who won three Premier League titles at Stamford Bridge of handing United’s players an excuse to lose.
“We’ve all done it, we’ve all been there. It’s the price on the ticket if you’re winning trophies. If you get to the later stages of European cups… you have to deal with [lots of games]. It’s nothing new in football,” Souness, who played 673 times in his own club career, spanning 21 years and in five different countries told Sky Sports.
“Big players have to say to themselves “I’m not tired.” I mean it, I never ever felt tired. I think what happened if I did feel tired, it would be maybe we’d lost a couple of games and you started to feel sorry for yourself, and that would last a nano-minute.
“The more success we had, I couldn’t wait for the next game to come along. The last thing I would want is a manager continuously telling me I’m tired. You’re handing an excuse to your players to not play well. I talk from experience. People say the game has changed, but has it changed that much?
“Was that a difficult game of football tonight?’ he asked. ‘No it wasn’t. Was it a tough game against Tottenham at the weekend? It wasn’t a terribly demanding physical game where they were getting knocks.
“Was it a physically demanding game against Arsenal the week before when you’re sitting in there, not chasing the game? I don’t see it. You deal with it and you get on with it. This is not a new problem.
“His reputation almost rests on next week,’ Jamie Redknapp noted on Sky Sports. ‘If they lose it’s been a massively disappointing season. If they win, great season.
“The way the team play is the most damning thing. They get outrun by every single team. They need more pace, more energy. It’s a mish-mash of players. Wednesday is so big for him, for his reputation, with the fans and with everyone. He knows it as well.
“Man up, I’m sorry. These guys have got to perform. Nobody tried to pussyfoot around us. You’re no good if you lose next week, deal with it.”
Mourinho will.be looking to shut Souness up by lifting the Europa League title in Sweden next week.