This is really weird. Manchester United manager José Mourinho had some things to say about Liverpool’s star player Mohamed Salah prior to this weekend’s matchup, and his remarks were . . . unusually free of the customary subtextual digs we’ve come to expect from the Special One when things aren’t exactly going his way.
As is familiar to most by now, Liverpool - then under Brendan Rodgers’ direction - were tracking Mo Salah in Basel, with an eye towards bringing the Egyptian forward to Anfield. Instead, Salah ended up at Stamford Bridge as a 21-year-old, and had an unremarkable stint at Chelsea before he was shopped around to the Serie A clubs.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Mourinho - drawing from his perspective as the former Chelsea manager - reflected on why things didn’t go as planned during Salah’s first foray in the Premier League.
“I think he developed incredibly well at every level,” noted the current United manager. “Physically, amazing development. He was a fast, fragile boy and now he is a fast, strong man.”
”He was psychologically not adapted, coming direct from a small club in Switzerland to a big club in England, and in the Premier League it was too much,” added Mourinho, who was not typically known for his patience with youth.
“I remember I played him at White Hart Lane and at the Etihad and was too much for him. Now he plays everywhere, against any team. Can go to Barcelona, can go to Madrid, he plays like, ‘I am Mo Salah and I am afraid of no one and nobody’.”
“He’s a fantastic player, completely different from the potential player we brought from Basel to Chelsea,” remarked Mourinho. “Was a project of player and now he is one of the best players in the world.”
That all sounds quite reasonable. No doubt Mourinho will have his own special plans for how to deal with Salah when Manchester United make the trip to Anfield, and his post-match remarks may be very different in tone if Salah has a decisive role in the outcome.