SWANSEA, Wales (AP) – Even after Manchester United’s four-match winless run in the Premier League ended, Jose Mourinho wasn’t happy – turning on players who missed Sunday’s 3-1 victory at Swansea.
“There is a difference between the brave, who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference,” Mourinho said.
“We have players with problems,” he added. “I have friends in other sports and they play at the highest level at other sports, and how many times do they play when not 100 percent? I have a friend that is a big tennis player. He tells me he remembers more the time he plays with pain than the time he plays without any pain and that’s what I mean. To compete you have to go to the limit.”
Asked about players not being prepared to play through pain, Mourinho replied: “It’s a cultural thing for some. That’s not my culture.”
Mourinho didn’t name the players he was aiming his comments at but he had discussed two ahead of the game in south Wales where Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s double and Paul Pogba’s volley secured the win.
“Chris Smalling doesn’t feel he can play 100 percent with his pain and Luke Shaw this morning told me he was not in condition to play,” Mourinho said.
United is sixth, three points behind Tottenham, which drew 1-1 at Arsenal.
And if Mourinho thinks he has problems, he should look at the plight of Swansea, which is only off the bottom due to Sunderland having an inferior goal difference.
Bob Bradley, the first American manager in the Premier League, has quickly discovered just how hard it will be keeping Swansea in the top flight. Swansea’s 10-game winless sequence marks their worst run since being promoted to the Premier League in 2011, with Bradley collecting only one point in the four games since he replaced the fired Francesco Guidolin.
Swansea is probably the opposition that any stuttering team would choose to play right now.
Hit by injury and suspensions, Mourinho made five changes from the side held by Burnley in their previous league game while the manager watched from the stands due to his touchline suspension.
Phil Jones and Michael Carrick made their first league starts of the season and captain Wayne Rooney returned after being out of the starting line-up since Sept. 18.
United was on the front foot from the start and Pogba rewarded that superiority with a fine 15th-minute strike. Pogba chipped a pass into Rooney’s path and, although Mike van der Hoorn beat Ibrahimovic to his lay-off, the world’s most expensive player had followed up the play to unleash a 20-yard volley for his second league goal.
Marouane Fellaini almost doubled United’s lead with another volley but the second goal soon arrived.
Rooney fed Ibrahimovic from the left and he shrugged off Ki Sung-yueng to send a low drive past goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
It was the 25,000th goal since the Premier League’s inception in 2012 and the 400th of Ibrahimovic’s career – ending a goal drought in the league which stretched back over 10 hours.
“I’ve been a bit unlucky in recent games but it’s just working hard and it comes,” the 35-year-old Swede said.
Ibrahimovic only had to wait until the 33rd minute for his next goal with Rooney again the provider, the Swede powering through Angel Rangel’s timid tackle to fire high past Fabianski.
“We’ve given up goals where the starting points for those goals are not teams with flowing moves putting 15 passes together and playing right through us and dissecting us,” Bradley said. “We give up goals where we feel we’re in decent shape, and then a ball gets put up there and somehow we come out second best and the next thing you know we’re scrambling to put out a fire.”
The mood became ugly among Swansea supporters as they turned on board members who sold their shares in July to the American investors – Steve Kaplan, a minority owner and executive vice chairman of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, and Jason Levien, a part-owner of D.C. United.
“If the fans are angry with us at halftime I understand,” Bradley said. “In the first half, we didn’t do enough to win them.”
The only bright moment for the hosts came when Van der Hoorn escaped the attentions of Pogba and Jones to head in a consolation in the 69th minute.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.