José Mourinho is currently experiencing his darkest hours as Manchester United manager. Coming up against former employers Real Madrid usually awakens the coach's most playful side, but not this time. Tonight's International Champions Cup game in Miami finds him embroiled in something of a struggle with the Old Trafford board, headed up by chief executive Ed Woodward.
Saturday's 4-1 defeat to Premier League rivals Liverpool was too much for Mourinho to take. "This is not our team, this is not our squad," he said after the thrashing in Michigan. "We started the game with almost half of the players who are not even going to belong to our squad on 9 August. I wouldn't spend my money to see these teams." He saw no benefit in taking part in the tournament, he concluded.
Bale, a priority for Mou
The jibe was not directed at the ICC, a competition that he helped his friend Charlie Stillitano to create. It was aimed squarely at Woodward. "I gave a list [of transfer targets] to my club of five names a few months ago," he explained. "And I wait to see if it's possible to have one of these players." At the top of that list was Gareth Bale; meanwhile, he has also been persistent in asking the club to sign Harry Maguire. And, so far, only one player, Fred, has been brought in who looks likely to be a starter.
The failure to secure Bale's services is an issue that continues to rankle with Mou. During United's pre-season tour of the US last year, he looked in his element as he openly courted the Welshman. But, much to his surprise, the club's pursuit of the forward did not bear fruit. And that now sits firmly in the 55-year-old's list of grievances, together with the failure to land two other Real Madrid players, Raphael Varane and Toni Kroos. Such is his mood right now (one of the British journalists travelling with the club defines it as "dark"), he refused to give the customary pre-match press conference before facing Los Blancos in Miami.
During United's time in the US, Mourinho has dished out a stready stream of trademark, cutting responses. When asked if his team could win the Premier League, he replied with a frosty "no comment", and on the subject of Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp, who had previously criticised United for spending 105m euros on Paul Pogba and whose club have spent 100m more than their cross-Pennine rivals this summer, he said he was "happy to smile and to see that you [Klopp] can change your opinion and change as a person". Mou, it is fair to say, has provided the sourest of Stateside sub-plots.