Axed Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has praised the quick-thinking of Liverpool’s ball boy in their win over Barcelona and says a certain former club did not take the role seriously enough.
The Merseysiders scored the fourth goal of their stunning Champions League comeback in truly inventive fashion, with Trent Alexander-Arnold taking a quick corner while the Barcelona defence were still organising themselves.
While Divock Origi calmly buried the chance, 14-year-old academy player and ball boy for the night Oakley Cannonier also got some recognition for his role in the goal as he quickly threw a new ball onto the pitch to catch Barca unaware.
And Mourinho, who clashed with United bosses over ball boys previously and even stopped the Manchester United Foundation from providing them, was glad to see a club utilise an underappreciated weapon.
‘There is one detail that some media got it: the ball boy. I had a club where the club never understood how important the ball boys are,’ Mourinho told Russia Today.
‘You want a quick throw in, the ball boys need to know you want a quick throw in. The ball must arrive fast. Even if you are winning, that speed is important. The goal kicks, the tempo of the game, the ball boys, in a good structure, can also play a part.
‘I was a ball boy, a top ball boy. When I was a ball boy, when I was going with the ball for players to take the corner kick, I even knew where the players wanted the ball. So the players don’t need to touch the ball, I know that Player A from my home team wants the ball in this part of the semicircle. I know that the other one, because he’s left footed, wants the ball in here.
‘People don’t know that a real football club, every detail is very, very important. In this game, the kid, very intelligent, very bright. I don’t know if he’s an academy player or not, but the kid knew what he was going to do.
‘Then Alexander-Arnold, he read the situation fantastically well. Young kid, Champions League semi-final, tired, 80 minutes of football. He saw everything. I always say, the good players are the ones that are on the pitch and everything is clear, they see everything. He saw that.
‘And then of course Origi could put it over the bar. It’s not easy. It looks easy but it’s not easy. And he put it there. Barcelona plays mixed, some players are zonal and some are man-to-man. The zone was not there, the first two guys by the first post weren’t there. I really don’t know what happened. I really can’t explain.’