Nice guy managers become puppets, says Mourinho in dig at Solskjær

• Former Manchester United manager scathing over successor
• José Mourinho says some United players have too much power

José Mourinho has appeared to suggest Ole Gunnar Solskjær has become “a puppet” at Manchester United, with the former manager admitting certain players at the club have too much power.

Solskjær’s promising start at Old Trafford after succeeding Mourinho initially on an interim basis in December was undone after United lost six of their 10 matches following the decision to reward him with a three-year contract at the end of March.

Mourinho insisted he had not been surprised by their struggles, which culminated with the home defeat to Cardiff on the final day, and took a thinly-veiled swipe at the “nice guy” who replaced him.

“Generally, the players can feel a certain erosion, especially when you ask a lot of them,” Mourinho told L’Equipe. “When I say that the second season [when United finished second behind Manchester City] was fantastic, I say it because the potential and the objectives were met.

“I really squeezed, like an orange, to achieve them. When you have a very professional group of players who are ambitious, hard-working and talented, at a structured club, you don’t have that erosion. When you are almost alone, in that you don’t have the support of the club close to you, while certain players go somewhat against the coach, who is the nice guy? I don’t want to be the nice guy, because the nice guy, after three months, is a puppet and that doesn’t end well.”

He added: “I said nine or 10 months ago that after winning eight championships, finishing second with United may have been my greatest achievement. Now people understand. About United I want to say only two things: One is that time has spoken. Two is that the problems are still there.”

Having ended the season in sixth place, Solskjær has acknowledged that it could take some time before United can push for the title again and faces a challenge to persuade some of their biggest transfer targets to commit to a season of Europa League football. Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho remains high on their list, although the England forward is also being monitored by several other sides who will be in the Champions League next year.

There are also doubts over the future of Paul Pogba, whom Mourinho clashed with frequently during his spell at Old Trafford, leaving him out of the side for what proved to be the manager’s final match at Anfield in December. But rather than blame the midfielder, Mourinho was adamant that United’s issues are more systemic.

“The problems are there, you can say that these are the players, the organisation, the ambition, I only say I cannot say yes when you ask if Paul was the only one responsible,” he said.