Jose Mourinho has told his embattled players to "grow up" and start living up to the pressure of representing Manchester United.
The Portuguese faced heavy criticism over his negative tactics in the Red Devils' shock Champions League last-16 exit to Sevilla on Tuesday, but came out fighting during an epic 12-minute tirade at a news conference previewing United's FA Cup quarter-final against Brighton and Hove Albion.
During the embargoed section of his press briefing, though, Mourinho had some choice words for a squad that flopped in Europe and find themselves 16 points adrift of rivals Manchester City in the Premier League.
Mourinho did not go so far as to call out the players he perceives to be under-performing, opting instead to praise Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku, but warned his squad they must be stronger to survive at Old Trafford.
"If you want to make a real top team, with a top mentality, you need to grow up and the best way is to have this kind of feeling," he said.
"Players have to learn how to cope with that level of expectation and that level of pressure. They have to survive, and when they survive, they become stronger.
"I said we are not one of the top teams, not one of the favourites to win. I told you that with these words because I cannot tell you with different words while I am still in competition.
"I cannot be in a competition, go there and say we have no chance. I couldn't tell you.
"You cannot expect me to say 'this and that player, they have to do better'. I prefer to say that Matic and Lukaku are performing at a high level until the last match.
"But I cannot tell you the ones that are not performing. I cannot tell you before a Champions League match."
Mourinho, though, rejected suggestions that United were favourites to progress against Sevilla, and claimed the team that is fifth in LaLiga are better equipped for success that his squad.
"We went out to a side that's more successful than Manchester United in the last seven years in Europe," he added.
"We went out to a side that has a huge tradition in knockout competitions, a side in the Spanish cup final. We're out to a team that knocked out Atletico Madrid in two legs.
"We were knocked out by a team that's brilliant in their approach for many years, with their scouting system, the way they invest with every Euro.
"Do you think they didn't have any players who could play in my team? In Sevilla, there are many players who would play in my team."
|Deschamps lauds intelligence of ´extraordinary´ Mbappe|
|Thomas maintains advantage as Fraile powers to stage victory|
|Woods sets clubhouse target, Kisner edges back in front|
|Bayern Munich 3 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Sanches strikes in ICC clash|
|Dost re-signs with Sporting CP after initially rescinding contract|
|Impressive Lions see off Jaguares to seal Waratahs semi|
|I´ll show Mourinho I´m ready, says United´s Pereira|
|Fognini sets up final clash with Gasquet|
|Injury ends Bouchard´s Swiss hopes, Sevastova through in Bucharest|
|That didn´t Work-u...race leader pulls up short of 3000metre finish|
|Prowling Tiger Woods on Open charge as Spieth joins leaders|
|Federer will struggle away from Wimbledon - Henman|
|Hamilton expecting tough Sunday at Hockenheim|
|Spalletti expects Icardi, Perisic to stay at Inter|
|Vettel smashes lap record to take Hockenheim pole after Hamilton woe|
|Warner targets Australia recall after Darwin debut|
|Rose: Open Sunday will be ´interesting´ after 64|
|Hamilton out of German GP qualifying as Mercedes falters|
|Pogba, Mbappe, Griezmann? Deschamps mulls Ballon d´Or contenders|
|Farah concussed on 250th Wests game as Tigers stun Souths|
|Waratahs overrun Highlanders in stunning second-half fightback|
|Rose scores record-equalling 64 to jump into Open contention|
|Moreno hails Liverpool´s recruitment drive as ´top, top players´ arrive|
|AC Milan elect new board with CEO Fassone out|
|Sri Lanka grind sorry South Africa into the Colombo dirt|
|Mina ready to reject offers for Barcelona stay|
|Guardiola tells Sane to use World Cup snub as motivation|
|Golovin´s ex-team-mate Chepchugov drops hint over Chelsea move|
|Reed & Rose make early charges on Carnoustie ´moving day´|
|Sancho ´had a point to prove´ in Dortmund´s win over Manchester City|
|Li hits back at AC Milan owners Elliott as bitter split continues|
|Crusaders cruise past Sharks to book Hurricanes semi-final|
|Rabiot would be a great signing for Barcelona – Xavi|
|JaVale McGee: Lakers are going to be ´one of the most fun teams ever´|
|Dolphins owner Ross: National anthem policy a ´placeholder´|
|Boga leaves Chelsea for Sassuolo|
|Schurrle in talks to leave Borussia Dortmund|
|Guardiola happy with Mahrez and Man City despite loss|
|Dodgers top Brewers in Machado´s debut|
|Raptors GM apologises to DeRozan after Spurs trade|
|Manchester City 0 Borussia Dortmund 1: Gotze spoils Mahrez´s debut in ICC opener|
|United fans keeping De Gea at Old Trafford – Herrera|
|Keita: I turned down Barca and Bayern for Liverpool|
|Merritt stays ahead as rain halts Barbasol Championship|
|Roma had to sell Alisson to Liverpool, says Totti|
|Donald Trump: Kneeling players should be suspended without pay|
|Cardinals´ Carpenter makes history|
|Nationals pair Strasburg, Zimmerman activated from DL|
|Premier League-linked Plattenhardt feels at home at Hertha|
|Johnson expecting tough Granollers challenge|
|Good Luck at last! Colts quarterback fit for training camp|
|Haase humbles Rublev as Cecchinato charges on|
|Benzema hits back at ´crazy´ De Laurentiis over age jibe|
|Leeds Rhinos finally end winless streak in Super League|
|No freaky Friday for Spieth as he bounces back in round two|
|Double boost for Bouchard in Gstaad|
|Iconic Ronaldo to raise Serie A level - Roma´s Hamm|
|Brighton birthday boy March renews contract|
|Lamela hoping injuries are behind him after signing Tottenham extension|
|Where will I get my massage? - Roma´s Pallotta mocks UEFA ban|
|Rashid struck by Lightning amid speculation over Test recall|
|Major misses a mixed blessing for Fowler and Kuchar|
|Fleetwood, McIlroy and Spieth bare teeth as Kisner and Johnson lead|
|The Open 2018 diary: Fleetwood´s swinging in the rain, but it´s a slog for McIlroy|
|Fees agreed as Fabri closes in on Fulham move|
|Neymar and Mbappe have a very good relationship, claims PSG president|
|Boufal joins Celta Vigo on loan from Southampton|
|Leicester sign Ward from Liverpool amid Schmeichel speculation|
|Kisner philosophical after run-in with the Barry Burn|
|Gattuso unsure of Bonucci future|