New Manchester United Jose Mourinho sat down with the media on Thursday morning at his hotel in China to discuss the upcoming season.
The conversation ranged from Juan Mata’s future and the possible signing of Paul Pogba to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s impact on the squad and who will be his club captain.
MirrorFootball’s David McDonnell was there in Shanghai to speak to the former Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea boss about his time at the club so far.
Here is full transcript of the Q&A…
What are your first impressions of you new squad?
As we know, not every player is here working yet. There are quite a few but I was impressed. I’m not surprised because I think, at this level, players are professional. They want to work. But I was impressed with the way they were working.
Even here we have had two training sessions where it’s very easy not to work well. It’s very easy to be affected by the weather, to be affected by the pitch which is dry and slow.
It’s very easy to say ‘I’ve got jet lag, I didn’t sleep very well’. Yesterday we arrived, had lunch and commercial duties, but the training in the first session was fantastic.
So the attitude is very good. The appetite is very good. They want to work, they want to improve, and they need to work a lot really because the most difficult thing in football that I’ve found during my career is when I go to a new club and I need to change the dynamic; the way of thinking, things that the players do automatically. Maybe some managers who go after me at clubs find the same thing if they’re not happy with the dynamic of the team.
This is quite hard for the players because they become quite automatic in their way of thinking. So to change some dynamics is not easy. They must be very focused, but the players are giving all of this.
The last couple of days [Wayne] Rooney, [Chris] Smalling and [Marcus] Rashford have brought a different plus in quality because they replaced some players who stayed back with extra players of quality.
On Sunday, even before we arrive back in Manchester I will send two of my coaches to start working with the other players, so they’ll start working on Sunday. Step-by-step we are going to do the puzzle, but it’s easy to feel that they want it and that’s very important.
Can Zlatan Ibrahimovic still have an impact in the Premier League at the age of 34?
Yes, because first of all I know him very well. I always think there’s our age in ID terms, but then there’s our real age. Because, for me, the real age is not the age on your ID. That’s just a date when you were born.
The real age – the real ID – is your body, your brain, your attitude. And this guy is young, his body is amazing. The way he grew up playing the sports he did before football – especially martial arts – he was prepared in terms of his muscles and the mental point of view in a different way to the traditional football player, his DNA, his motivation.
Let’s be honest, he’s very rich. He’s made money all his career, he’s won a lot of things. You only come to the most difficult championship in the world if you feel you can do it. If you don’t feel you can do it, you go to America, China, stay in the French League one more season.
So the guy wanted this one more challenge. When I told him that I had won in England, Spain and Italy and he hadn’t – that he’d done Spain, Italy and France – he thought ‘ah, I want to go. I want to win every one’.
So his motivation is high. His body is amazing. On Sunday he is going to start a specific programme we have prepared before he joins our group on the Thursday, so he has five days just for him. So I expect he is going to be very good for us.
How will Ibrahimovic help the squad?
Sometimes people say the team has no leaders, it’s this, it’s that, but what we need is everybody with the same kind of mentality. I like communication and push them to communicate. I give a lot of instruction in training.
It’s difficult for me to do the same in matches so I need guys on the pitch to read the game, to understand what we want. Zlatan is going to be one of them, and I feel already that we have guys to do the same. I don’t think we’re going to have a problem at that level. We have lots of quality.
When I see our group in the attacking areas. Zlatan, Rashford, Rooney, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan, [Juan] Mata, all the wingers we have. I think we have lots of quality in attack to produce good football and score goals.
Do you think it was your destiny to manage United?
The only thing I thought is that every club I was at, I was always playing against Man United – with Porto, Inter, Real Madrid, always; Champions League matches, big matches. Then with Chelsea; matches to decide the title, FA Cup finals, Community Shields.
I’ve played so many times against Man United and what I felt was – and you know this is not easy with me – so many matches and no problems. It’s very difficult to play against a club so many times and I have no problems. Not a yellow card, not a red card, not an offensive word. I won a lot of times but I also lost and there were not any negative comments.
What about when you first played them with Porto?
That was him [Sir Alex Ferguson] not me! It was him, not me. So I always had that good feeling, for sure, and I think the fans feel the same.
I remember playing at Old Trafford and the way to the dugout was always nice. It was never like in other stadiums. There was always a connection.
Then can you end up being their manager one day or not? I always felt that what has to happen happens and it happened so.
What would it mean to put United back up there?
I think it’s more important for the club and the fans than me – I think that is the way I have to look at it.
The club is much more important than me, the fans are much more important than me, so it’s not for me. I’m not working for me, I’m working for the club, for the fans. That’s the way I look at things.
Can it be nice for my career to win trophies in every club? That would be amazing. To be champion in every club would be amazing.
But that’s an individual, selfish perspective that I don’t want. I work for the club. The club brought me here because they trust me.
I have the feeling – of course not everyone I guess – that the majority of the supporters they trust me. They believe that I can help the club. I have the feeling that the players want me.
I’m not saying they didn’t want Mr Van Gaal, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that since I arrived I feel that they are very fine with me and my way of leading and my way of work.
But I want just to see my things in this way of perspective, and let’s enjoy the season because a big season is waiting for us.
How does United compare to your other clubs?
I don’t want to compare because I want to respect every club. I work for every club. It doesn’t matter the dimension of the club, it doesn’t matter the objectives, it doesn’t matter the responsibility. I always work the same way, giving everything.
I was lucky enough to work in some of the biggest clubs in the world and of course Man United doesn’t need words from me for everybody to know what Man United is.
That challenge comes in a stable moment in my career, lots of experience, so I feel it comes in the right moment. I feel very calm about the job.
You sold Juan Mata when you were at Chelsea, does he have a future under you at United?
I sold because he asked for that. Nobody in my previous club wanted to sell or push him. No, it was his decision. He was not the first option, but he was playing every game. I never let Juan Mata out of my selection of the 18, but he was on the bench a few times.
We had a proposal from a big club like Man United. We thought in the club that the proposal was very much acceptable, that it was very good proposal for that period, three years ago. In this moment, the numbers are going crazy, so numbers that looked very high three years later it looks very cheap.
But he wanted to leave and my philosophy is I don’t want players that want to leave. I want players that want to come and want to stay. So we sold Juan to Man United.
But I think since the first day everything is clear between us. There is space for him. He’s a talented player and I don’t promise places to anyone. I promise respect and I like him, so if he wants to stay – and I think he wants to – until this moment I don’t have one little sign that he wanted to leave.
So I think he wants to stay and, yes, there is space for him and, yes, I think he can be useful to the club.
Will you sign Paul Pogba from Juventus and is he worth £100million?
I don’t speak about players from other clubs. He’s a Juventus player. If any club wants one of my players and it speaks about him I would not be happy.
So Paul Pogba is a Juve player and what we are trying to do we are trying to do in an honest, correct, institutional way.
The only thing I can say to you is we did 75 per cent of our market. We established four important target profiles – not faces but profiles – and we got three of them at the very early stage of the market.
Now we have 25 per cent of our market to conclude until August 31, and that player is not the only one. It’s a profile we have, we have options for that profile, and we’re going to get a fourth player. But maybe it’s not the one you think.
If you get that fourth signing, will United challenge for the big trophies?
Yeah, I want to challenge.
Can you challenge? Can United be in the title race in May?
I don’t know but I want. I’m not going to hide behind three bad seasons, three bad championships, behind two seasons not even with fourth place. I’m not going to hide behind that. I’m not going to hide also in that fourth is a target and everything better than fourth is amazing for us.
No, I want to win the title and I want my players to feel it. If at the end of the season anyone is better than us, then great. But now in this moment, before the flag to start the race, I’m not going to say we don’t want to win.’
When do you want to make that fourth signing?
As soon as possible, but until August 31 that’s fine.
Will Wayne Rooney remain your captain?
You said at your second unveiling at Chelsea that you could build a dynasty there. Can you see yourself staying at United longer than three years?
I’m not at Chelsea because the owners didn’t want me. If he [Roman Abramovich] wanted me I would still be there.
I have the contract I have and for that the owners are happy. To give me a new contract I will be happy to do that because that is what I want at this moment in my career, but I think it depends on many things.
I will try to do my work to make the owners realise that I am the right guy for this job. But in this moment I’ve just played Wigan.