The Miami weather remained gloomy Monday, but Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho’s mood seemed to brighten up as his team trained at Barry University in preparation for Tuesday’s 8 p.m. International Champions Cup match against Real Madrid at Hard Rock Stadium.
Adding to the levity at the United practice was a surprise visit from several World Wrestling Entertainment stars, who were in town for Monday night’s WWE RAW event at AmericanAirlines Arena. Among the wrestlers who posed for photos and got team jerseys were Drew McIntyre, Apollo Crews, Dana Brooke, and Titus O’Neil.
Mourinho was photographed smiling and laughing, a far cry from his disposition Saturday night.
After his team was beaten 4-1 by rival Liverpool in front of 101,000 fans at Michigan Stadium at an ICC match in Ann Arbor, Mourinho said of the crowd: “The atmosphere was good but if I was them I wouldn’t have come. I wouldn’t have spent my money to watch these two teams. I watched Chelsea versus Inter earlier and people had decided the beach was better. The stadium was empty.
“These people here show how much they love their club and came to enjoy the clubs they love in Europe. That is fantastic.” But, Mourinho said, the teams they’re seeing on this U.S. tour, for the most part, have depleted rosters due to post-World Cup vacations.
Although his team’s traveling roster includes Alexis Sanchez, Andreas Pereira, Lee Grant, David de Gea, and newly-signed Fred, he is without Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.
Asked if his team could use reinforcements, Mourinho continued on his rant: “This is nothing to do with reinforcements. The reinforcement are Pogba, Fellaini, Lindelof, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Antonio Valencia. These are reinforcements.
“This is not our team, this is not our squad. The majority of players that have played are not going to play. Some are not even going to belong to the squad. The accumulation of matches is killing progressively my brave boys because I have some brave boys.
“We have four or five players that are dead because they care for the club, for the team, they try to give everything, even risking themselves because they don’t want to let all the kids play by themselves against AC Milan, Liverpool and Real Madrid. They don’t want to do that.
“So, we are trying to play these matches as best we can and we did until the gasoline lasted. Liverpool are not having the majority of their players but they rotate players. [Mo] Salah played 45 minutes. We cannot do it, so gasoline over. What this game gave me? Nothing at all.”
Real Madrid, meanwhile, arrived in Miami on Saturday night and has been training at FIU. The team, which includes Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior and Kiko Casilla, practiced at Hard Rock Stadium Monday night.
Tuesday’s game will be Real Madrid’s first of their preseason. From Miami they head to Landover, Maryland, where they play Juventus on Saturday and then on to East Rutherford, N.J., where they face another Italian team, Roma, on Aug. 7.
These games mark the start of the post-Ronaldo era for Real Madrid. The Portuguese superstar left the Spanish club this summer after nine years and transferred to Juventus. He is not expected to be with Juve when the two clubs play in Maryland.
Real Madrid’s new coach, Julen Lopetegui, who took over the team in June, was asked in several ways at Monday’s press conference how Los Blancos will fill the void left by Ronaldo’s departure. Each time, he had the same answer: “Cristiano is one of the best, most important players in recent Real Madrid history, but he expressed his desire to leave, we accommodated him and wish him all the best. I am very confident we can compete for all the big titles with the roster we have right now. If this is the team we have, and add nobody else, I would be a happy coach.”
He added that he expects Bale will take on more of a leadership role, and that he has “a great opportunity” to showcase his talent as the team embarks on this new era.
Former Real Madrid player Steve McManaman, in the United States promoting La Liga, is curious to see who will step up for the league champions to replace Ronaldo’s huge presence on and off the field.
“That’s the huge question because you’re talking about someone who was scoring a goal a game,” McManaman said. “So, if he’s in the team lined up next to you, you’re leading 1-nil, so it’s going to be a huge, huge void, I think, to fill. I don’t think anybody knows yet. Everybody’s waiting to see what will happen once the league starts.
“But the fact that he has scored so many goals in finals, semifinals, in decisive moments, someone is going to have to step up whether it’s going to be Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio or whether they go into the transfer market and try to buy somebody. That’s the million-dollar question. Personally, I think they need to bring more people in. They’re weaker than last year because they let Cristiano go, so they have to do something about it.”