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28th Sep 2017

Jose Mourinho’s best achievement is inspiring two players everyone thought he would destroy

Leaves the same question every single time

Niall McIntyre

An old dog learning new tricks.

One of the biggest, most common criticisms levelled at Jose Mourinho is based around his previous struggles, and it must be said, his own reluctance to keep fringe players happy and play youngsters.

His second spell at Chelsea couldn’t have highlighted this any more, when he was unable to integrate some unreal talents into his team, like Kevin De Bruyne, Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku.

It wasn’t the only time this happened either. Take Juan Cuadrado, a man who impressed at the World Cup with Colombia, or Mohamed Salah who has been brilliant under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

We know what these lads were then, and we know what they went on to be. But Mourinho couldn’t find a place for them, he couldn’t manage them.

It all fed the notion that the Portuguese has no patience, that he isn’t the right man to inspire young players, that he wasn’t the right man to inspire the careers of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

Contrary to the popular opinion, though, Mourinho is no slouch to recognise his own errors, to right his own wrongs. The way he has, not twice, but three times contradicted his own judgement over current Manchester United powerhouse midfielder Nemanja Matic highlights this.

His willingness to involve Mata, a player who he wrote off at Chelsea, even more so.

In true Mourinho style, both Rashford and Martial were delivered a tough love approach at the start. He blatantly refused to give either of them much praise, they were never shown any signs that he really relied upon them to become regular starters.

They did some good things last season, and even so far this season, but they were never given an overwhelming vote of confidence from him.

Mourinho is unflinching at times, he can be so hard to please, so hard to impress, but recent weeks have suggested that he has really won over both of these players.

They are both revelling in the impossible task of satisfying the Special One, they both look hungrier than they’ve ever been before.

They are in competition with one another, but competition is always a good thing, and the rotation policy he is currently dividing between them has seen them both value each moment they get on the field, and they’re mad to stake a bigger claim than each other.

United are in a healthy state. It’s classic Mourinho, they are well-oiled, efficient all over, but perhaps his best achievement has been keeping these two ticking over, when he doesn’t really have a starting place for either of them.

Martial looked unplayable in Wednesday night’s victory over CSKA Moscow, always willing, always running, always striving to impress, to make it impossible for Mourinho to keep saying no.

And that’s what Rashford has been doing all season. He’s keeping them guessing, he’s keeping everyone guessing. Who’ll start the next game?