The English pair did not travel with the Manchester United squad to Swansea after they were deemed mentally unprepared to give 100% after a long-string of matches.
Speaking after Man United’s 3-1 win in South Wales, Mourinho insisted the pair, alongside others, needed to harden their attitudes.
Southgate was reluctant to respond to Mourinho’s comments, but did express a level of sympathy for Smalling and Shaw.
“Chris hasn’t played for quite a while,” Southgate said.
“Luke has played but we know has had some ongoing difficulties since coming back from what was a very serious injury.
“Our medical teams, as with all the clubs, liaise closely throughout the week. The decision with Luke to not play yesterday was a bit later but we have been aware that they’ve both been carrying things, for sure.
“In terms of what Jose said, that’s a club matter and not for me to comment on. In terms of players playing with injury, there’s always a line for a player.
“Players want to play, generally, but on individual situations you need all the information to be able to comment really. It totally depends on what an injury is: what part of the body, what are the ramifications. It is a very individual thing.”
Call Mourinho’s comments harsh if you please, but the 53-year-old is spot on. He noted that mental fragility, accentuated by the prospect of playing with a knock, stems from the ‘culture’ of English football.
Indeed, the nature of our game – infected by the dangerous cocktail of players being heralded too early in their careers, pampered by the millions they receive, before being lambasted when they fail to reach the unreachable standards set by a sensationalist, vulture-like public – precludes our homegrown players from turning into ruthless world-beaters (as we discover every two years).
Mourinho hasn’t just diagnosed a problem within the United squad here; he’s tapped into an issue pervading English football as a whole.