Jose Mourinho is prepared to leave senior Manchester United players out of next Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, having insisted he cannot select them based on “the price they cost” or their “beautiful face”.
Jay Rodriguez’s 73rd-minute header punished Mourinho’s pedestrian side for failing to break down their well-organised visitors and earned West Bromwich their first win on the road in the league since August.
Mourinho described his players as “masters of complication” after their limp display, which came despite the United manager naming a strong starting line-up including Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba.
United return to Premier League action on Wednesday night on the south coast at Bournemouth, three days before their Cup semi-final against Tottenham at Wembley.
Mourinho was expected to ring the changes for the trip to the Vitality Stadium but when asked whether he would rotate, the United manager suggested some of those who played in Sunday’s defeat would appear again as they had now lost their place for this weekend’s semi-final.
“Rotating is not the right word,” he said. “If I play a player against Bournemouth and the player is phenomenal, he plays the semi-final. So is not rotating, because rotating looks like a player plays against Bournemouth to give a rest to somebody that is going to play against Spurs in the semi-final.
“So the word is not rotation, it is an opportunity for people, for some people to play and to try to get a place in the team for Spurs. Some of the guys that played today don't have a place in that team, they don't have a place in that team.”
Mourinho was asked to clarify whether players would be dropped specifically because of their poor showing against West Bromwich, and he replied: “Yes. What is the criteria for a manager to choose a team?
“I only know one criteria. It is the way they play, is the only way I can select players. Or do you want me to go for the price they cost, or their salary, or their beautiful face? The only way is to go with performance.”
Mourinho made his remarks after yet another difficult afternoon for Pogba, United’s record signing.
Eight days earlier, the midfielder had scored twice to inspire the comeback win at the Etihad but his performance on Sunday was more in-keeping with his recent struggles and he was substituted before the hour mark.
Mourinho, however, refused to single the midfielder out for criticism in his post-match press conference.
“It was not just him,” he said. “He had a yellow card so he was in a more difficult position than others and playing with only two midfield players, you cannot play with one player in risk of not being able to make a foul.
“Paul was out because of the yellow card, because of in terms the way he played he was not worse than some of the others who were on the pitch for 90 minutes.”
The United manager still believes his side can put up a stronger title challenge and compete with City next season but he called for greater consistency and dedication from both the experienced members of his squad and his younger players.
“Consistency has nothing to do with age, it has to do with personality, has to do with the way you live for football, what is your priority in your life, what is your ambitions, has not to do with age,” he said.
“I met players with 30-years-old, not consistent at all, and I found boys of 18, 19, 20, real men, real pros, so is not about the age.”