Jose Mourinho has warned his whole squad they must prove they are tough enough to play for Manchester United.
In addition to publicly calling them out when he told them to “man up”, his simple private message was that if they want to enjoy the good times and success at the club then they have to stick with him through the bad times.
Mourinho was furious Smalling and Shaw would not push themselves through the pain barrier and has now left the rest of the squad in no doubt of his feelings.
Players’ union chief executive Gordon Taylor has waded into the row on behalf of Smalling and Shaw, accusing Mourinho of lacking empathy with modern-day footballers.
“I was disappointed with that because, knowing the individuals, they are both highly thought of,” said the PFA bigwig. “They have personal problems which I don’t need to relate, but sometimes a manager needs to be a psychologist as well.
“Also, we’re all human beings. That’s why, with management these days, I’m not talking about being soft, I’m talking about being understanding. Very few make it in the game and those that do have got a real resolve and a resilience.
“So to suggest that any player is being not as tough as he could be, those days are gone — when we had no substitutes and were on with a broken leg and you still carried on. Surely we’ve come beyond that.”
But rather than show any sense of regret or remorse over his treatment of the players, Mourinho has gone straight back onto the front foot with his dressing room warning.
He believes he has the support of the players and is also annoyed at the number of injuries United have had this season, so is turning his focus onto the club’s medical set-up.
* UNITED reserve keeper Sam Johnstone will go on loan to one of Championship trio Aston Villa, Wolves and Nottingham Forest in January.