England interim boss Gareth Southgate has seemingly put himself in Jose Mourinho’s firing line after defending Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw.
The pair were left out of the Manchester United squad that faced Swansea City at the weekend with injury complaints, something that Mourinho wasn’t impressed with.
While the Portuguese tactician evidently expects players to play through certain injuries and pain barriers, Southgate has taken a more sympathetic standpoint on the matter and took Shaw’s history into context while looking at Smalling’s personality too.
When asked about the possible questionable character of the two players, he responded: “I don’t know Chris well but that wouldn’t be my impression, having worked with him,” as noted by Sky Sports.
“Luke I know well and Luke’s had a really tough injury [a broken leg kept him out for almost a year]. I think very often it’s easy to look from the outside or to make judgements on people without knowing them really, really well.
“After an injury as severe as that, we’ve got to handle that with care as well. It’s a difficult balance to find but that’s where we have to trust our medical teams.”
To his credit, Southgate did tread a cautious line with questions from reporters as he looked avoid starting a controversy or war of words with Mourinho over the reasons for leaving them out and the public criticism that followed, but by even talking about it, he could risk a response from the United boss.
Neither player have made it into Southgate’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Scotland and a friendly against Spain next week, and so they will have the international break to recover from their knocks.
As for Southgate, it’s a brave move to have his say on a matter that will undoubtedly get Mourinho’s attention and risk potentially causing friction between the pair moving forward for getting involved in a club matter.