COMMENT: It's over for Mourinho. The magic's gone. He's an old geezer in a young's man game....
How dare Jose Mourinho criticise Luke Shaw in public! The Manchester United fullback is only 21. A mere boy. A child. A toddler. He's flown around the world representing club and country. But no matter. Such words from his manager will crush him. He'll never recover. Mourinho has killed his career. It's over for Shaw. OVER!
Can we get a grip? Seriously. Those claiming Mourinho was wrong to call out Shaw after the defeat at Watford either didn't actually listen to what the manager had said, or were simply being opportunistic. Mourinho had pointed out in the post-match that Shaw had also been caught out against Manchester City. That was when the quiet word was made. The chat behind closed doors. But, from Mourinho's perspective, it clearly hadn't sunk in. At Vicarage Road, Shaw was at fault again - twice in a week - and so a different tact was needed to get the message through.
Many ex-players are claiming Mourinho wants Shaw to sit back. Accusing the manager of having his left-back "play with the handbrake on". Now, far be it for us to dare question those riding the sofa. But this column can't quite understand how you can find a defensive theme in his post-match reaction:
"Today for the second goal, (Nordin) Amrabat on the right side, our left back is 25 metres distance from him, instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, then you have to jump and go press. But no, we wait.
"This is a tactical but also a mental attitude. In a couple of weeks, everything like this becomes perfect. That's my job."
The "mental attitude" is what should be highlighted here. Mourinho, before the start of the season, had warned it would take time to break down the system and methods that Louis van Gaal had drummed into his players for two years. The 'paint-by-numbers' coaching: 'If the ball is in this zone of the pitch, then player x must be here, y there, and z facing this way'. Day after day. Week after week. This was what Van Gaal demanded from his squad. And it's what Mourinho is now trying to help his players shake.
He wants Shaw to back himself. Not sit off his opponent. Get tight. Win the tackle. Turn defence into attack. Believe. It's the approach that had Eden Hazard runaway with the PFA and FAW Player of the Year gongs a year ago. Mourinho didn't get that reaction from demanding Hazard "play with the handbrake on". It was from Mourinho building up his belief, urging the Belgian to play on instinct.
That it all went sour last season wasn't because Mourinho had a sudden shift in approach. It was because he wanted more from Hazard than the player was willing to give. He wanted Chelsea's No10 to reach his potential, to reach a new level. But the player was far more comfortable sitting where he is.
And this is what Mourinho, allied by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, wants to is drive through at Carrington. Nothing in his reaction on Sunday questioned Shaw the footballer. There were no doubts of his ability in the manager's comments. It was about confidence. Aggression. Belief: 'You're better than that winger. You can beat him one-on-one. I believe you can. So why can't you?'.
Mourinho has had two months with these players. Van Gaal had two years. After the initial adrenalin rush of the opening weeks of the season, performances in Rotterdam and Watford reverted to type. It was the old United. The Van Gaal United. The slow build up. The possession game. Everything Mourinho is trying to rid his team of. It was all there.
Southampton at Old Trafford. Under a clear Manchester night. That's the United Mourinho is working towards. But it'll take time. There'll be hiccups. Slipping back into old habits. Mourinho warned fans, the media, even his own players, of this at the start of the season.
"For two years they had principles and I have to change them. There are things in their brain that are automatic and that is difficult to change," said the manager before the campaign's kickoff.
"My team is going to be my team."
And this is what Mourinho is trying to shake from Shaw. He's trying to remove LVG's "handbrake" from the fullback's thinking, not impose his own.
As much as it was a setback at Vicarage Road, it should be noted that the defeat marked the first Premier League start for what should be Jose Mourinho's first-choice centre-half pairing.
They'll be stronger for it. But like with the overall mentality of his squad, Manchester United fans can't expect the understanding to be perfect from day one.
Bailly is still learning his English and unlike Daley Blind, Smalling doesn't speak a word of Spanish. On paper, they do have the making of an excellent partnership. But don't expect everything to run smoothly in the coming weeks.