The Manchester United boss made the admission during a lecture at the University of Lisbon last week.
Mourinho has been delivering sessions on ‘Leadership and Communication’ and ‘From game analysis to on-field team organisation’.
One of the students present, Petter Skogsletten, noted on Reddit that Mourinho heavily mentioned Ander Herrera and revealed the moment he realised the Spaniard was ‘one of the smartest players he’s ever had’.
For the final against Ajax, Mourinho had tasked Henrikh Mkhitaryan with standing outside the box and breaking down counters from attacking corners. Herrera would be in the area.
However, Herrera switched roles with the Armenian in the 48th minute leaving Mourinho furious.
Of course, Mkhitaryan went on to score from the corner but that’s not what left the Red Devils boss so happy.
“Mourinho talked a lot about Herrera, saying he is one of the smartest players he has had during his career,” said Skogsletten.
He added: “Herrera took hold of the Mkhitaryan and sent him in front of the keeper, while Herrera would take the pitch outside the box. Mourinho said he was so frustrated that he said ‘What the hell is going on?’.
“It turned out Herrera had taken responsibility in the situation – Mkhitaryan had a yellow card. If Ajax suddenly counterattacked and Mkhitaryan had fouled the player, he would have been sent off.
“Mourinho said he is incredibly pleased to have such players who can handle situations on their own and adjust.”