Jose Mourinho has told Manchester United’s underachieving players to “stay at home” if they cannot handle the pressure at Old Trafford.
United, the only team yet to score at home in this season’s Champions League, will qualify for the knockout stages if they beat visitors Young Boys on Tuesday and Valencia fail to beat Juventus in Turin.
But the match comes just three days after a goalless draw against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford which left United 14 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, and left Mourinho questioning his players’ heart.
They have only three wins from nine home matches in all competitions this season, but Mourinho insists it would be a “lack of respect” to United’s fans to say they prefer playing away.
“If you feel pressure, stay at home – and when I say home, I don’t say stadium home, I say home home and watch on TV,” Mourinho said.
“If you feel pressure to play matches at home where the people come to support… come on.
“I never felt pressure to play at home.”
Mourinho expects a response from his side in the Champions League after saying there was “not enough desire” in the draw with Palace.
His history of cutting soundbites have previously been targeted at Luke Shaw, and the 23-year-old defender admitted it takes “thick skin” to play for the Manchester United manager but that he relished the “tough love”.
Mourinho remained keen to draw a distinction between his methods behind the scenes and the players’ output.
“It’s frustrating because what I want is the team to start strong, is the team to go strong on the opponent, not to be waiting, not to be reactive but proactive,” Mourinho said, having also said his side are “not very good on second balls”.
“That’s exactly what I want and probably you or the fans, they think ‘oh, Jose told them to start slow’, ‘Jose told them to play nice and easy and wait to see what happens’ or ‘to be losing for then to react’.
“It is exactly the opposite thing. I want the team to start strong, I want the team to have a go immediately and it is a bit frustrating.”