Steve Agnew has publicly declared that he wants the Middlesbrough manager's job on a permanent basis following the sacking of Aitor Karanka.
"I know we'll take that fighting spirit for the rest of the season".
It forced his opposite number Steve Agnew - who was taking charge of Boro for the first time - to seek Mourinho out for the traditional post-match handshake.
Downing was said to have been involved in a training ground row with former manager Aitor Karanka last week amid frustration at a lack of first-team football and his omission from the matchday squad for a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City on 4 March that saw last season's Championship runners-up slip into the Premier League relegation zone.
"Jose Mourinho claimed he can see his team losing this weekend, but it is mind games".
Agnew is the front-runner to be given the job, according to the Gazette, after being backed by Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson.
"I've known him for a long time and have done courses with him".
Gibson also paid tribute to Karanka, who guided the club back into the top flight at the end of last season. If we show that kind of commitment and intensity then we have a real chance of staying in this league.
Asked how to get the best out of Downing at a pre-Manchester United press conference, Agnew, who believes he is capable of keeping Middlesbrough afloat, told reporters: "Stewart's a Middlesbrough boy". I think I'm capable of delivering it and the players are capable. I hope he's here this time next year or the year after.
Speaking before the game, Gibson had hinted Agnew could be Karanka's long-term successor as manager. "I think he can be the glue to unify us completely".
"This club will always hold a special place for me and I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough Football Club the very best for the future". He's a very good coach and a very good number two.