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Jose Mourinho’s sombre countenance on the touchline and failure to win the “hearts and minds” of his players since arriving at Manchester United could prove his downfall, believes a leading British sports psychologist.
The United manager has repeatedly criticised his team in public this season and the 53-year-old should think carefully about changing his approach, according to Steven Sylvester who works with Premier League players as well as world champions from other sports.
“It’s very strange. In my experience I haven’t seen him [Jose Mourinho] constantly criticise players in the media, this is a new style from him,” Sylvester, who is also psychologist to the cricket county championship winners Middlesex, said in an interview with Reuters.
“Although they must have done something to make him question if these players are at standard he wants, I think it is a way to mask his frustration that he can’t get the team delivering according to his mandate.
“The whole point of good leadership is to win the hearts and minds and if you criticise players in the press you’re going against that.
“The players will sit there in the dressing room thinking, ‘who’s next, what happens if this goes wrong today?’ It creates more fear within the culture than joy.”
Mourinho, who has made an underwhelming start at United, recently said his living arrangements in Manchester have been a “bit of a disaster”.
He painted a miserable picture of himself holed up in his hotel, alone without his family and unable to venture out to local restaurants because of the prospect of being hassled by fans and photographers.
“There’s a lot going on there and if you listen to the content you can be distracted from the main theme,” explained Sylvester, author of the book ‘Detox Your Ego’ (www.withoutego.com).
“For me Mourinho is in major transition as how to build a new culture at Manchester United.
“He is not going to go to the media and talk about what he is doing to get the culture changed and to get the performance right or how he is assessing the players, so he has to talk about something else.
“He has been one of the best at being able to take people away from the scent of what he is really doing. I think it’s probably tactical.
“Having said that, he has looked really unhappy and I think being unhappy transmits to the players when you’re in transition.
“This means it is harder to get them to play with the rhythm that he wants. It takes time for a group of players to assimilate.”
On the eve of United hosting Arsenal at Old Trafford, Mourinho claimed on Friday that rival manager Arsene Wenger received the respect that was not shown to him, even though “my last title was 18 months ago, not 18 years ago.”
Yet rather than opting for that typical swipe at Wenger, Sylvester felt it was about time Mourinho turned on his old “charm” instead.
“I think he should go on the charm offensive, focus on what he can do to win the hearts and minds not only of his players and staff, but of the fans, too,” Sylvester said.
“He needs the support of the media and the goodwill factor needs to come across in his leadership style.
“Mourinho talks more about individual errors than collective errors. I believe in the collective. You win together and you lose together.”