Jose Mourinho claims modern footballers have such fragile egos that one Manchester United player asked the Portuguese coach not to criticise him in front of his team-mates.
Mourinho was sacked by United in December after a wretched run of results fuelled by the disintegration of his relationship with several key players.
Publicly criticising United stars including Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw and feuding with others behind the scenes, Mourinho lost the dressing room and has since blamed the attitude of his squad for the fall-out.
On Saturday, Mourinho, speaking on beIN sport as a pundit for their coverage of Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea, revealed he was stunned to be approached by an unnamed United player over his treatment of him.
“I had recently one of my players, I was just coaching them, and when I coach on the pitch I like to see myself free because I am in family and I want to be able to criticise everyone,” Mourinho said.
“I had one player say, he was very polite and not confrontational, ‘Please when you criticise me, can you do it in private?’.
“I said why and he said, ‘Because it’s my stature in front of the other players, when you criticise me I don’t feel comfortable’.
“He was one of the top players of his generation. Nowadays you have to be very smart in the way you read your players and their personalities.”
While former Chelsea boss Mourinho didn’t name the player he was talking about in the incident, he did mention Stamford Bridge legend Didier Drogba as a prime example of a player who responded well to being criticised.
“Drogba was the kind of player who, with more pressure from the manager there was more quality in his performance,” Mourinho said.
“He’s a proper man, he’s a competitive guy, he’s a mature man, he’s a man that everything in this life he has had to fight a lot for.
“There are some players that when you try to squeeze them they answer in the best way and then there are some players who have other mentalities and other personalities and of course their reaction is not the best.
“I had players brought in, in a different way who have an easy social life and an easier way of coming to the top of football. Some of them, they don’t react in the same way.”
Defending his United reign, which saw him win the League Cup and Europa League in his first season but go trophyless last term, Mourinho insisted his title rivals were given more backing in the transfer market.
Mourinho believes he deserved the same spending power enjoyed by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
“You have the case of Manchester City. In the first season, Guardiola was not a champion, it was really difficult and people were expecting a winning Manchester City,” Mourinho said.
“In the first to the second season Pep made great decisions, but great decisions that were supported.
“In Liverpool, I think how many players were in Liverpool before Jurgen arrived?
“No Alisson (Becker), no (Virgil) Van Dijk, no (Andrew) Robertson, no (Mohamed) Salah, no (Roberto) Firmino, no (Sadio) Mane, no Fabinho, no (Georginio) Wijnaldum, no (Naby) Keita, so this is work in depth.”