Jose Mourinho has a fractious relationship with ball boys – the youngsters who crouch by the sidelines, waiting to return the ball when it goes out of play.
Last season, he called Leicester City’s ball boys a “disgrace to the Premier League” for their alleged role in the Foxes’ victory over his Chelsea side, and he told a Crystal Palace ball boy that he risked being punched for slowing down play in 2014.
At a level of competition where squeezing out the extra one percent can make all the difference, the Special One has apparently targeted the adolescents around the field who are helping to run down the clock with their childish lack of urgency.
To that end, Mou has reportedly fired all of the ball boys at Old Trafford in order to speed up play. The Mirror’s Steve Bates reports:
I can reveal manager Mourinho drafted in players from United’s Under-16 team for the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Old Trafford last Sunday after becoming dissatisfied with the previous standard.
Until then, the club’s ball boys and girls were provided by the Manchester United Foundation. But Mourinho wanted a slicker operation when the ball went out of play with his team either on the attack or up against the clock.
The logic behind this unusual move is that the club’s academy players will have a greater understanding of the nuances of the game – the need to replace the ball quickly when United are on the attack, or time is running out. Of course, these carefully selected ball boys may also not be in so much of a hurry when it is the opposition that needs the ball in play.
So, the boys and girls who were previously granted the opportunity of a lifetime via the charitable Manchester United Foundation must now make way for the club’s next generation of stars.
And if any of those Red Devils starlets are deemed to be too slow on the touchline, they will surely suffer a similar fate to another ancillary member of Mourinho’s staff who was fired for wasting time while doing her job.