Ex-Blackburn striker Chris Sutton has said that Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is “humiliating players” by questioning their commitment.
Mourinho has appeared to criticise the desire of Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to return from injuries.
Sutton told BBC Radio 5 live Mourinho was “running the risk of turning the dressing room against him”.
“To call them out for not playing through the pain barrier is deeply unfair,” he added.
Left-back Shaw will miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury he picked up during United’s 1-1 draw with Swansea on Sunday.
Neither Jones, who had a toe injury, nor Smalling, who had a knee injury, have played for United since 19 March but they are available for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final first leg at Celta Vigo.
“Managers I have played under would say things in the dressing room but back you in public. Mourinho just shoots from the hip. I think further down the line that leads to trouble,” said Sutton.
“Having said that, in my opinion, what he is saying to the Manchester United board is, ‘I don’t want these players at the club. I need to replace them’. He is not daft – he knows what he is saying.”
Mourinho has appeared to indirectly criticise the trio in recent weeks.
Speaking of Shaw in April, he said: “I cannot compare the way he trains and commits, the focus, the ambition. He is a long way behind.”
After Sunday’s draw with Swansea, he said during a news conference: “I prefer not to speak about Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.
“I prefer to speak about Juan Mata giving everything to be available. I am grateful for that.”