Manager Jose Mourinho’s pre-match message of embracing the occasion of playing in front of a packed Old Trafford crowd inspired Manchester United to a 4-1 rout of Premier League champions Leicester City, defender Chris Smalling has said.
After back-to-back Premier League defeats by Manchester City and Watford, United were under pressure from their fans and returned to winning ways with Smalling beginning the rout of the champions with a first half header.
“The boss really wanted to get the enjoyment factor across,” Smalling told the club’s website (www.manutd.com). “He stressed how there is 70-odd thousand people in the stands who want to be in our shoes and in his shoes.
“It’s a case of realising how lucky we are and how we should go out there and enjoy it. You can see that everyone did enjoy it and the message clearly did get across.”
The victory moved United to sixth on the table with 12 points from six games and released the pressure on the club and Mourinho, though his decision to relegate England captain Wayne Rooney to the bench created more speculation.
Smalling, however, said the 30-year-old is still the “main man” under Mourinho.
“He was the same, as in before the game when we’re all getting ready. He is often one of the most vocal and he was the same on Saturday,” Smalling added.
“Regardless of whatever the situation is, whatever game, whether he is on the bench or playing or whatever, he is always that same type of character and that’s why he is England’s main man and our main man.”
(Reporting by Ian Rodricks in Bengaluru; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)