Jose Mourinho slams Man United's 'lack of personality' in FA Cup win
MANCHESTER, England -- Jose Mourinho blasted his Manchester United players despite watching them earn a place in the FA Cup semifinals with a 2-0 victory over Brighton at Old Trafford on Saturday night.
Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic scored either side of half-time to ensure United booked their place at Wembley and bounced back from their Champions League exit to Sevilla. But only Matic managed to escape Mourinho's fire after the game.
The United manager laid into his team -- particularly full-backs Luke Shaw, who was substituted at half-time, and Antonio Valencia -- and said a number of players appeared "scared to play."
"I want more personality in the team," Mourinho told BT Sport. "I felt like Matic was an island of personality, of desire, of control, surrounded by not water but surrounded by lack of class, lack of personality, lack of desire."
Mourinho said midfielder Scott McTominay had his "worst game" in the first team, but he also praised the effort of the 21-year-old as he had "the big personality to cope with the mistakes."
"I have to say, for example, McTominay lost more passes today than in all the matches he played together," Mourinho added. "But he was a Manchester United player, and for me a Manchester United player is a player that when he plays bad, he gives to the team. That's a question of personality, that's a Manchester United player for me.
"The perfect Manchester United player is the one that has quality and personality and is consistent on that, but when you play bad -- and as a football player you can play bad -- when you play bad you must have that personality that a kid with 20 years old had, and some of the others they didn't have."
Shaw was handed his first start since since the last round of the FA Cup against Huddersfield last month. But the 22-year-old was substituted at half-time after 45 minutes during which Mourinho felt the need to scream instructions to the left-back from the touchline.
"It is my decision," Mourinho said in his news conference when asked why Shaw was withdrawn. "My reason behind it is that we work on the pitch with certain kinds of movements, where, for me, it was really important for the two full-backs to be aggressive and to be always in front, to create space for Matic and Scott to play in front of the two central defenders. And I didn't have that with Luke and Antonio Valencia, with both of them.
"I had to change one of them and I chose Luke because at least Antonio defensively was capable of some good positionings. Luke in the first half every time they went in his corridor, the cross was coming and a dangerous situation was coming. So I was not happy with the performance."
Mourinho's criticism comes just a day after he made an emotional 12-minute speech during which he called into question United's "football heritage" in the wake of their Champions League exit on Tuesday.
The Portuguese manager said that after the defeat to Sevilla he dedicated time in training to improve United's ball movement in the midfield, but he did not see the results on the pitch against Brighton.
"I spend two days working on this, and when I arrive here, [I see] attacking players hiding behind defenders not wanting the ball in between the lines, defenders playing just square passes and taking 10, 12 for the ball to go from one line to another line," he told BT.
"I have to feel frustrated because I think as a coach the biggest frustration sometimes is not the result, because a bad result can happen. Sometimes the biggest frustration for me is when I work on the [training] pitch and then I see contradictions in the match."
Mourinho accepted that he risked losing the dressing room with such strong criticism of his players, especially after a game they won. But he insisted he had "nothing to lose" after performance that fell so far short of his standards.
"My calculation is that without pressure, they don't perform well," he said in the news conference. "What can I lose? And the ones that are always there are the ones that will always be there. And that is an example of personality. You have the kid [McTominay] that didn't play well at all.
"I told him already, he was the first one I spoke to individually in the dressing room. And instead of being critical with him, I was positive with him because, 'You played very bad but you did the basic things that one player has to do.'
"The basic things is to keep the emotional balance to play with that red shirt, which is a heavy shirt to wear. And the kid, in his worst performance by far, he was there and he had body to wear that shirt. He was not afraid to play. He played bad, and every player can play bad.
"But to feel not comfortable to play -- 'Please Mister, take me from the pitch.' I felt that. So I have nothing to lose in relation to that. The strong ones will be always the strong ones. The young ones, under pressure and under criticism, will improve or will not improve."
The FA Cup likely represents United's last chance to win silverware this season, with rivals Manchester City running away with the Premier League and having already won the League Cup. And Mourinho said the real test of a player's personality comes when the results are the most difficult.
"You know when the sun is shining, and in football the sun is shining when everything goes well, you win matches, you score goals, everything goes in your direction, every player is a good player and every player wants to play and every player wants the ball and every player is confident to play and every player looks amazing," Mourinho said.
"When it is dark and cold and that in football means a period of bad results or a bad result like what happened to us a couple of days ago, not everybody has the confidence and the personality to play really. Not all of them were able to do it."
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.