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The Jose Mourinho Trust Index: Which Man United players can he rely upon?

Jose Mourinho is under fire at Manchester United, from the outside but also from within, famously falling out with Paul Pogba and often criticizing his players for a lack of intensity. All in all, it's created a toxic atmosphere around Old Trafford.

So whom can Mourinho still rely on in the United squad? Who is left that will back him all the way ...? Here's what those close to the club had to say.

The die-hard Mourinho faithful

Marouane Fellaini: In many ways, he is the defining player of latter-years Mourinho. Big. Physical. Can throw his weight around. Somehow manages to sometimes be good at football without ever really being good at most of the things you'd associate with a footballer. Does what he's told. Also, did we mention: he's big.

Nemanja Matic: A solid soldier. In Mourinho's darkest moments, you can picture him brooding in a dark corner somewhere, saying, "At least I have Nemanja."

Scott McTominay: The son Jose never had ... even though he does actually have a son. If United were a school class, McTominay would get mercilessly bullied for being the teacher's pet.

Who can Mourinho turn to in order to haul Man United out of their frustrating slide?
Jose Mourinho needs his trusted players to perform, but who exactly makes that list?

Romelu Lukaku: Mourinho trusts Lukaku because of how little he seems to trust United's other forward options. It's not the most rock-solid basis for a relationship, but it works ... for now ... to a point. But as any authoritarian teacher knows, you have to keep an eye on the kids who are friends with the troublemakers too ...

Lee Grant: Lee Grant plays for Manchester United. He's presumably quite happy about that. Lee Grant is Manchester United's third-choice goalkeeper. Mourinho thus doesn't have to worry too much about what he thinks. A detente, then.

Just here to play

David de Gea: Mourinho is many things, but he's not stupid: He knows that irritating the best player in your team would be a suboptimal move, so he's tried his best not to do that. Because De Gea is, simply put, a multi-occasion bacon-saver.

Diogo Dalot: He's new and he wants to create a good first impression, although he hasn't had a chance to create much of an impression just yet, making just four appearances so far. A neutral relationship, one assumes.

Fred: Ditto. The danger being he could be scapegoated, through no fault of his own, because he was the sole purchase in a summer when Mourinho wanted many purchases.

Matteo Darmian: A strange one, because Darmian is one of those players whom Mourinho tends to only say positive things about, without ever really picking him. He's just sort of ... there, like an emergency plate you don't really want to use but you have to get out if too many guests arrive or you can't be bothered to wash up.

Ashley Young: Has become the sort of dependable, 7/10 player Mourinho likes, fully committing to his conversion to a left-back. Has been incredibly unlucky this season that Mourinho and Luke Shaw's relationship seems to have mended. For now.

Chris Smalling: After United's victory over Watford recently, Mourinho said, "I like everything about Chris ... other than his hair." Everyone fell about laughing. Perhaps not a strong relationship, but there are bigger problems elsewhere.

Luke Shaw: If this list was written a few months ago, Shaw would have been at the bottom. But some knuckling down over the summer has seen him back in Mourinho's favour, and there seems to be a truce between the two. An uneasy truce, perhaps, but that's firmer footing than some others in the United squad. Said Shaw of their understanding: "I think he got frustrated with me because he knew I could do better. When I look back, maybe he was right."

Jesse Lingard: "He is the funny one that does not disturb the class," Mourinho said of Lingard in the summer. That's about as close to affection as Mourinho seems to get these days.

Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof: Bailly and Lindelof are the walking examples for anyone arguing against Mourinho being allowed to buy any other defenders he wants, because he spent £60 million on these two and doesn't seem keen on playing them. There's a good reason for that, but still.

Antonio Valencia: A footballer apologising for "accidentally" liking a social media post is always a pleasing development, but not for Jose: Valencia did that after the draw with (erm) Valencia, giving his apparent approval to a post calling for Mourinho's dismissal. A slip of the thumb, we're sure, but where previously captain Valencia could be filed under "loyal lieutenant," now class him as "suspicious, possibly insubordinate."

Juan Mata: A clash of styles. How could there not be a lack of trust between a player of delicacy and grace, and a manager of ... not those things? Mata needed to be the very best player he could be to win Mourinho round again, after being sold while both were at Chelsea, but he simply hasn't been that over the past couple of years.

Ander Herrera: In theory, Herrera should be a perfect Mourinho player: a little devil in him and feisty midfield presence unafraid of making on-pitch enemies. But the last time he was picked, it was in defence against Tottenham: the definition of a thankless task.

The 'Rogue Elements'

Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho's apparent rift defines the current malaise around Manchester United.
The apparent rift between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho defines the current malaise around Manchester United.

Marcus Rashford: "For 10 months I get asked, 'Why always Lukaku? Why always Lukaku? Why always this player?' You know why now." That was Mourinho's reaction to the performances of Rashford and Anthony Martial against Brighton last season, which probably says it all.

Phil Jones: Most of us have had our confidence undermined by a boss saying negative things. But most of us have the fortune that our bosses don't say those things on national TV. Put yourself in Jones' position: How would you feel if, after a penalty shootout in the Carabao Cup, Mourinho basically said he knew things were dire when you stepped forward, as he did after the recent defeat to Derby County? Think it, perhaps, but say it? Not exactly a morale boost.

Alexis Sanchez: There might be a time (if it is not that time already) when Mourinho resents Sanchez. To a point the manager staked his reputation by signing the Chilean, a player best in a wide forward position United already were well-stocked in, sidelining your Rashfords and your Martials in place of a proven, world-class and take-no-nonsense winner. Since then, Sanchez has played like his bootlaces have been tied together, scoring three goals and notching six assists in 24 games. This situation will come to a boil if he doesn't start contributing more to United's cause.

Anthony Martial: Even when praising Martial, Mourinho can't help having a dig. Take the defeat to West Ham: Afterward, Mourinho essentially blamed the change in formation on Martial, saying everyone wanted the forward to be picked so he picked him ... only he couldn't trust him to do any defensive work, so had to switch things around. Then there was Martial preferring to spend time with his newborn child rather than schlep around on United's preseason tour, which Mourinho seemed to consider an outrage.

Paul Pogba: In all honestly, this was never going to be a good match. The social media maverick vs. the "my way or there's the door" tough-guy manager. Who knows who's to blame for their fragmented relationship, but fragmented it is. And only a supreme optimist might think it will get much better any time soon.


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