Criticism must be aimed at me - Mirabelli seeks to shield Milan
AC Milan sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli has taken responsibility for the team's struggles and invited criticism as pressure mounts on head coach Gennaro Gattuso.
Milan lost 2-0 at home to Atalanta on Saturday to see the scrutiny intensify on Gattuso, who is already facing calls to quit less than a month into his tenure as Vincenzo Montella's replacement.
The Rossoneri spent big to bring in the likes of Andre Silva and Leonardo Bonucci in the off-season, but the team find themselves 11th in Serie A, well off the Champions League qualification places they were expected to challenge for in 2017-18.
Gattuso has struggled to make an impact since being promoted from his work with the youth team, but Mirabelli would prefer to be the focus of criticism from supporters and the media.
"Rino is a great man, a great coach," Mirabelli told Sky Sport Italia.
"We knew that we were facing a lot of problems and he lives Milan to the full, caring so much about this side.
| Coach Gattuso reflected on the defeat and the team's difficult moment, interviewed by @MilanTV: https://t.co/Q3HHD3ohDy-- AC Milan (@acmilan) December 23, 2017
| Mister Gattuso ha commentato così la sconfitta in #MilanAtalanta e il momento negativo della squadra: https://t.co/6AAGfPNrKupic.twitter.com/h2kVW5fVIl
"During these difficult times, it's important to be men, stick together and work to get the ship back into the harbour safely. We must shoulder every imaginable criticism.
"I am protective of the squad because I am responsible for new buys, contract renewals and confirmations. The biggest responsibility I feel is mine and therefore criticism must be aimed at me.
"I am proud of all these players who try so hard, but for various reasons we struggle to become a team. We are all very clear on what the issues are and I am happy to take the brunt of the criticism if it means shielding the squad.
"We knew that this project was a long and tortuous proposition, although perhaps we expected fewer difficulties. We don't have time to let our heads drop or create excuses. There's Inter in the Coppa Italia [on Wednesday] and we must face it with the utmost dignity.
"More than disappointment for the lost games, we are sorry for the fans who cheer us on. We must win the people back and prove wrong those who say this squad is not worthy of Milan."