When I am critical of my players (Brighton 3 – Man Utd 2)

A weekend away in Brighton and Mourinho fails to find the spark in his relationship with Manchester United.

It is a story of mistakes for Mourinho.

“We were punished by the mistakes. Sometimes players and teams make mistakes and you are not immediately punished. We were always punished by every mistake we made – and the third goal is too hard.”


“At half-time we tried and the team in the second-half tried, but from the mental point of view the accumulation of mistakes and the punishment by the goals was step-by-step giving confidence and happiness to a good team like Brighton. ”

Given the opportunity to exorcise his players in publc Mourinho ensures the criticism is publicly shared amongst all of the players.

“When I am critical of my players you don’t accept it. The press and pundits are very critical of me when I go in that direction. Please do not ask me to go in that direction, because it is not good for me.”

“I will be very, very happy to analyse my players performance when it is very good. It is a great thing to stand in front of the cameras and say player A, player B, player C, they were fantastic, they had a fantastic performance. ”

“When I cannot do that, do not push me to the other side, because I cannot go to the other side. ”

In praising no-one, Mourinho criticises everyone.

Leadership communication lesson

Communication is never simple and one way in which leaders are often confounded is by failing to appreciate the meaning listeners can take from things which are not said. In his interview Mourniho plays with this quite deliberately and leaders that aspire to be good communicators need also to control for this variable. All good communicators will share large-scale communications with intended audience members to test for undertstanding. Excellent communicators will also test for any meaning the audience could infer from content that is not contained in the communication.



But not because it is Chelsea (Man Utd 2, Chelsea 1)

After a long-running puerile and nasty public spat, it was Mourinho that emerged as the victor over the Chelsea manager.

Asked if the win was very special to him, his answer is very clear.

“But not because it is Chelsea. It is special because we beat the champions, a fantastic team that is very difficult to beat and because these 3 points are the points that keep us in the second position that we are fighting for.”


“The players gave everything. It is not possible to win against a team of the quality of Chelsea without the extra-effort everyone gave.”

It is the team, not individuals, that Mourinho is keen on praising. Pressed on the performance of Lukaku, he turns his analysis instead to the game and to the team.

“We didn’t start well. Then we found our positions on the pitch and were growing up through the whole game.”

“When you go from 1-0 down, to 2-1 up, everyone feels that extra-energy – happiness brings energy – everyone gave everything.”

Leadership communication lesson

Alex Ferguson often said the two most powerful words in the English language were well done. Lukaku may feel short-changed by Mourinho, but Mourinho is best placed to judge how individual players may react to praise and we do not see what goes on in private. What is clear publicly is that Mourniho exercises judgement in how he uses his praise and this judgement is something any leader must apply if they decide to publicly praise individuals in their team.


I’m sorry for Michael Oliver (Man Utd 1, Man City 2)

You cannot win the title before Christmas, but it appears others are happy to concede defeat before Christmas.

Mourinho is the only manager not to and ‘happy’ is not a word to associate with him.

Invited to answer where the match was lost, his answer is,

“Clear penalty.”


“I’m sorry for us, I’m sorry for Michael Oliver – I think he had a good game, but clear penalty.”

“Last season we had a similar situation with Mark Clattenburg against Man City.”

“I’m sorry for Michael Oliver. The referee is a human being – he tries his best.”

“They (Man City) scored two very bad goals – unbelievable to concede. What they are good at, they were not good at –  rebounds.”

How would he analyse his own team’s performance?

“We did good things, we did bad things.”

A Match of the Day pundit could not have put it better.

Leadership communication lesson

Few leaders will have the charisma or platform to be able to completely ignore a question as Mourinho does at the start of this interview. The ability though to use a question to deliver the messages you want your audience to focus on can be the difference between a good communicator and a great communicator. Mourinho’s refereeing argument may only be appreciated by the most one-eyed of Man Utd fans, but it suits his immediate purpose in re-directing attention from the limitations of his own side.


We fought hard, we fought hard (Southampton 0, Man Utd 1)

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.




The game was totally under control (Arsenal 2, Man Utd 0)

So this is how the 25 game unbeaten run ended.

A run that had seen the club move from the depths of despair in sixth to the dizzying heights of fifth.

In his post-match interview Mourinho wants to focus our attention on two aspects, the performance and the limitations on his squad.

He does this through braggadocio – elevating his praise for his players.

“I like individual performances and I also like the collective performance.”

“I cannot ask more from players who play not one second of football in the last seven weeks.”

“Jones, Smalling, Mata – amazing.”

“The kid the same – amazing job.”


“We were good, well organised, played well, deserved to win and Arsenal were not better than us.”

“The game was totally under control.”

He ends with a joke at Arsenal’s expense and one that reminds every listener of his success as a manager.

“Finally, I leave the stadium with the Arsenal fans happy. It is the first time I see them smile and see them enjoy.”

Leadership communication lesson

Humour is a powerful communication tool. It stimulates emotions and builds on a common set of assumptions or knowledge between you and your audience – in this case Mourinho’s record against Wenger. Get your joke wrong, however, and you will lose the audience. If you are preparing for a speech or presentation and want to use humour, make sure you have tested it in advance. Ask a colleague the question, “Is it funny?” and, if not, cull it.



Who can I blame? (Man Utd 1, B’Mouth 1)

The most disappointing result for the top 6 at the weekend was at Old Trafford.

Mourinho only needs to remember Van Gaal’s sacking on the day of winning the FA cup to know the relative balance of priorities between cup competitions and the league.

The failure at home to beat a Bournemouth side reduced to ten men raises questions about an assumed narrative that has Man Utd returning to the top 4.

In his post-match interview Mourinho chooses to focus attention on the first-half.

“We played a phenomenal first half and we should be winning 3 or 4 nil and we end the first half at 1-1.”.

“It is as simple as that. Who can I blame? Ourselves. Nobody else.”


And yet it is not as simple as that.

Instead,  we have the use of apoplanesis as the subject is quickly changed from “ourselves” to  “a team that gave up to play”.

We have auxesis in his use of inflated language, in addition to “giving up”, their goalkeeper was “phenomenal”.

And we have a logos that it is very difficult to score when you have 1o men who do not want to win.

He has changed the narrative from the problems at his own club to a critique of Bournemouth, while covering his tracks by claiming he is “not critical” of Bournemouth’s approach.

Mourinho may not be in the top 4, but in his use of rhetoric, there are few managers who can touch him.

Leadership communication lesson

Communication is a skill to be learned and to be developed. Mourinho will have likely learned through observation and repetition, rather than studying the underlying rhetorical skills, but learning these skills is an invaluable shortcut for anyone who finds themselves in a leadership role. Look at Obama, look at Mourinho and even look at Donald Trump. It is the command of language that, time and time again, separates leaders from followers.