All three points for United in a performance in which for Mourinho, “we fought hard, we fought hard.”
Defensive solidity was the most important element.
“We did for 20 minutes what many Premier League teams do for 90 minutes with five at the back and defend with a very low block.”.
Pressed to praise Lukaku, Mourinho is qualified in his response.
“He is a striker who is scoring goals. His work is important for us.”
“He could score a second goal and kill the game. He did not, but his work is important like anyone else.”.
In contrast – given the opportunity to comment on the performance of his wide-men – Mourinho picks out Rashford as being “phenomenal”.
This contrast in approach to two of his strikers is likely influenced by their relative confidence.
Lukaku’s goal return in comparison to Rashford’s this season means Mourinho is knowingly directing his praise where he feels it can have most impact on the player and more importantly on his team.
Leadership communication lesson
The ability to publicly – and privately – praise members of a team is an important tool for many leaders. As with any tool, however, it needs to be used knowingly. What should matter most to a leader is the objective they are pursuing and the decision on how to use praise should flow from this. Fairness is important and it is clearly a fine line to tread, but if praise can have more impact on the performance of one individual over another then it should be used in this way.