Jose Mourinho has warned some of his Man United stars to come out of their 'comfort zones'
Jose Mourinho believes some of the players he inherited have struggled to meet his demands after expectations were lowered during the spells of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
While his predecessors continually talked of transitional periods and long-term projects following the Sir Alex Ferguson era, Mourinho immediately raised the bar by declaring he wanted to win the Premier League title in his first season.
That looks a distant hope now with sixth-placed Manchester United 14 points behind leaders Chelsea with only 15 games left and Mourinho thinks part of the reason is that some players are struggling to handle the pressure of his and the club's expectations.
"I said in my first press conference about being champions because I don't think there is another position that a manager can have at this club," he said.
"I didn't know the players very well then. I didn't know that some players need time to live with this, because it must be part of your natural habitat.
Mourinho reckons the standards at Man United have dropped under Louis van Gaal and David Moyes
"Play to win and to cope with the responsibility and pressure to win. This is something that has to belong to your natural habitat. For some guys, it doesn't.
"They also need that time to go out of their comfort zone or a zone where they are protected and where we assume the objective is not to win – that also takes time."
At times this season Mourinho has been openly critical of Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitarayn and Chris Smalling for various reasons.
But he insists his hunger has never changed from his first appointment in football as Bobby Robson's translator at Barcelona in the early 1990s.
"Something that doesn't change is my mentality – the desire to win, the responsibility to win, the feeling that I'm never happy with myself, I always want more from myself," he said.
Mourinho started out his career as a translator for Bobby Robson at Barcelona
"That is something that for me, never changes. I started as Sir Bobby Robson's assistant in 1991-92. In all this period, football has changed so much. The only thing that hasn't changed in me is that desire to work and that desire to win. I don't accept anything that is just good. You don't want good – you want very good.
"That is something I always fight for every day for the people that surround me – players, assistants, medical department, everybody that surrounds me day by day. That's something I fight and I will fight for forever."
Moyes and Van Gaal were both sacked after failing to guide United into the Champions League but Mourinho believes he will be given more time by the club's American owners, the Glazer family, and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, because they can see progress.
And he hopes that reaching next month's EFL Cup final, the knockout stages of the Europa League and the last 16 of the FA Cup will help harden the mentality of his squad.
"Mr Woodward and the owners, we spoke a couple of times," he said. "We don't need to speak every day because we know exactly the way to do it.
Man United stars bring out 4x4s to tackle farm track to and from training
Thu, February 2, 2017
Manchester United stars were forced to roll out their fleet of off-road vehicles as they made their way to and from training down a dirty farm track
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Manchester United stars are forced to take a farm track to and from training
"I think a very good way to do it is to fight for the competitions we are in, because this helps, to play a final, to go to the knockout stages of the Europa League again with some responsibilities, because we feel we also have responsibilities in the competition. These are all details that are going to help the people."
United stalwart Rio Ferdinand this week criticised Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard for posting a picture of them practising a goal celebration routine on social media by reminding them that the team was only sixth.
Privately, Mourinho might feel Ferdinand's comments will help ram home his own message to the players but, uncharacteristically, he delivered a diplomatic answer.
"I respect Rio. He was a big guy in my club. He was a legend in my club – and I am not – so as somebody who is not at his level in the club, I don't think I have any legitimacy to comment on Rio. I'm not saying to you that I agree or I disagree."
Meanwhile, Phil Jones (bruised foot) has been ruled out tomorrow's game with a foot injury.