Mourinho’s tricky reunions
Following the news that AS Roma will be appointing Jose Mourinho to become their new manager at the start of the 2021/22 season, narratives are already being written as to the future of some of the players at the club.
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) May 4, 2021
Mourinho is not unfamiliar with tenuous relationships with players. Therefore, when moving to a new team, there is always the possibility that a reunion with some of his less favoured ex-colleagues could be on the cards.
This could be the case at Roma – with both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling – whom the Portuguese coach managed at Manchester United.
‘It was very hard’ says Mkhi
Former Manchester United, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan played under Mourinho during his time at Manchester United, and was sold by the coach.
His minutes at Old Trafford diminished, and he was eventually replaced by Alexis Sanchez.
The Armenian international described how it was difficult under the Portuguese coach, but how he also learned plenty during his tenure.
“It was very hard but I learned a lot as well,” Mkhitaryan said.
“I learned how to defend, how to help the team. It was not only about scoring goals and making assists.
“It was more about the team winning so it doesn’t matter who scored, we had to win together. It didn’t matter who made the assist we must always be happy that we won the game.”
He added that whilst it was tough, Mourinho, crucially, brought trophies.
“What I want to say is that I had a hard time but after the first two or three months there, I had a very good time,” said Mkhitaryan.
“I won three trophies with the club, which was amazing. You know, some players have been playing in Manchester for ages but they haven’t won anything.”
Maybe Mou will do the same in Rome?
Toe-gate revisited for Smalling under Mourinho
Whilst Mourinho was at Manchester United, he also coached Chris Smalling.
With Smalling, as has been the case with many a player, there was no shortage of controversy.
During a difficult period for United, Mourinho claimed that his side, including Smalling, lacked bravery, sniping that there is “a difference between the brave, who want to play at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference.”
The Portuguese was referencing Smalling not recovering quickly enough from an injury, suggesting the defender could have played through the amount of pain he was experiencing, It turned out, though, that the then-England international had in fact suffered a broken toe.
When Smalling was asked if he had received an apology, he revealed that no such message had come.
“No, it’s just professional,” he said. “All of us are professionals and no player wants not to play. That was all just [him being] professional – get on with the rehab and then get out as quickly as you can.
“I think that was directed at everybody. We had a lot of injuries at that time and he was frustrated that quite a lot of players weren’t available. He knew the picture in terms of liaising with the medical staff and he was just frustrated, the same as us players who wanted to be on the pitch.”
Smalling hit back at Mourinho’s claims that he had shown unwillingness to play through the pain barrier.
“I think in the Chelsea game I proved that I would play with injections,” said the stopper.
“I had done the injury, I played on and it turned out there was a break. I had a couple of injections but it got worse and that’s when I had the layoff.”
Smalling has performed brilliantly in a Roma shirt, and has become an asset to the club. Will his history with Mourinho affect his remaining years in the Italian capital?
This article was edited by Conor Laird.
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