JUST after the hour mark during Manchester United’s 3-0 Premier League win at Sunderland, Luke Shaw’s face fell – he was being withdrawn.
Muttering what looked like an expletive, the £27million man lowered his head in frustration and trotted over to the technical area where he swapped places with Daley Blind.
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The United full-back looked dejected and disappointed, but he needn’t. He’d responded to his managers’ criticism.
The week before, Mourinho had questioned Shaw’s commitment, before throwing him on in the closing stages of the Premier League match against Everton at Old Trafford.
Ashley Williams had dived to stop Shaw’s goal-bound shot with his hand, causing a penalty and Zlatan Ibrahimovic converting to grab a 1-1 draw.
Shaw, it appeared, had more than played his part, but still his manager wasn’t happy, and when asked about his contribution, Mourinho said: “It was his [Shaw’s] body and my brain, because he was in front of me and I was making every decision for him”.
Bizarrely, Mourinho’s criticism worked, and on Sunday before he was substituted, Shaw performed confidently and with a steely determination in his eyes.
As he trudged off, he looked perplexed, but the pat on the back from his waiting manager was a sign that he was happy, and that Shaw could well be an important cog in his machine.
It wasn’t the first time either this season that Mourinho had poked one of his players in public, only to get a positive reaction.
In November, it was Anthony Martial’s turn. Mourinho warned that if he did not grab his chance when selected, others will “take the bait” and jump ahead of him.
Last season the Frenchman was arguably one of United’s best players, but this campaign, it’s taken some stern words from Mourinho and some subsequent impressive showings for the penny to drop.
There are other examples too. Who can forget his treatment of Henrikh Mkhitaryan after his dismal showing in the Manchester derby defeat last September?
Mourinho declared that the Armenian needed “protecting” and until late November there were doubts as to whether he’d become anything more than a bit-part option from the bench.
Several important goals later, including that scorpion kick against Sunderland, and the former Borussia Dortmund player has made the attacking role behind Ibrahimovic his own.
Even home-grown Marcus Rashford hasn’t escaped. It was only last week that Mourinho highlighted his poor goal return as an example of United’s lack of consistency in attack.
The youngster hadn’t scored a league goal since last September – and his manager was happy to point it out to reporters.
Rashford’s response? An energetic display from the bench and the third goal against Sunderland. It was job done.
Can we then expect more mind games after the Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht on Thursday evening?
Of course, you’d be disappointed if not, and the evidence suggests it’s working at a critical time of the season.
The Belgians are no mugs though, and like United, finished second in the group stage of the competition.
We know Wayne Rooney will miss the tie through injury, who looks likely to be ushered back to boyhood club Everton in the summer.
That is of course of little concern to Anderlecht, whose main threat is 19-year-old Youri Tielemans.
The Belgian midfielder has impressed for club and country this season and is reportedly a target for a number big clubs across Europe.
Tielemans has broken records already in his career becoming the youngest Belgian to play in the Champions League in October 2013, and has followed that up with three goals in this season’s Europa League competition.
Mourinho and his team will be ready though, and while United fans won’t expect a repeat of the score in the home leg of the tie between the teams in 1956 (a 10- 0 win).
They know that if they can get back to Manchester with a draw at least, they will be strong favourites to reach the semi-final.
And who knows, if they do, maybe we’ll have to wait another couple of weeks for Mourinho’s latest round of mind games.
Twitter : @MrTomMcDermott