Journalist Duncan Castles has responded to longstanding claims and accusations he works as a mouthpiece and PR outlet for Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and super agent Jose Mendes, explaining that he is simply a reporter writing about stories from the contacts and sources that he trusts the most.
Castles will often break an exclusive or tweet something related to Mourinho or the club he is at - in the past it has been about Chelsea - or a client of Jorge Mendes' GestiFute agency.
That has led people to believe he holds a serious Mourinho bias, not helped by the fact that Castles was the only journalist to vote for the Manchester United boss as the Manager of the Year at FIFA's Best awards earlier in October.
Castles told the Media Matters podcast this week, quoted by Football365, "I don't think it's right."
He explained: "The way I work as a journalist is I'm prepared to write something from contacts if I trust that contact gives me solid information. I work with a lot of agents, do a lot of reporting on transfer business, and it's very easy for an agent to manipulate the transfer market by getting a story out through a newspaper or TV station by telling them something, such as Manchester United want to sign Mesut Ozil or Real Madrid want Dele Alli.
Defo fair play to Duncan - he was a good sport— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) October 26, 2017
"Quite often there's no substances to these stories but they facilitate the agent in the transfer market, or gaining his client a new contract. So a big part of my job is assessing whether an agent, or manager, or sporting director is trustworthy. Is he giving me accurate information or is he trying to use me to get a message out. That process takes time and any information I get is going to be checked with at least one other source."
That manipulation is a significant problem in football reporting. But even if Castles doesn't have the time to verify a claim from a source because of an approaching deadline, he makes sure to only use information from contacts he really trusts when forced to write a story 'in a hurry'.
"Sometimes you have to write a story in a hurry because of deadlines and in those instances you have to only use the contacts you really trust because they've never given you duff information in the past," he commented.
"My core contacts as a football journalist are those guys, people in some cases that I've worked with for over a decade, who have never given me duff information. When they tell me something, it's right."
Once a monkey researcher before getting into journalism around the time of the 2002 World Cup in Japan, Castles' alleged Mourinho bias wasn't helped by his voting in the FIFA Best Awards.
Castles was Scotland's media representative and was the only journalist from a group of over 150 around the world who chose Mourinho as his number one for Men's Coach. The United boss had captured EFL Cup and Europa League honours, but the vast majority of journalists went with La Liga and Champions League winner Zinedine Zidane as their top choice.
Castles has also often been accused of favouritism when it comes to tweeting about Mourinho and his teams. Following United's recent loss against Huddersfield, he suggested that Mourinho's team had been unfairly treated with the amount of stoppage time played when Manchester City had conversely benefitted from longer stoppage time earlier in the season.
"The point I was making there was the two teams at the top of the Premier League table have both been in difficult circumstances against a team they were expected to beat away from home," the journalist explained.
"You're reading into it that the tweet was about a conspiracy theory. I'm not saying that referees are intentionally giving Manchester City an advantage, it's just saying that in that particular instance, they got the break. It's interesting to contrast."
As for tweeting and making controversial statements for a reaction, he replied, "I'm a journalist. My livelihood is dependent on driving traffic and getting people to read my content. So, if my stuff is boring and not worthy of reading I would be out of a job. As a journalist you try and say interesting things and provoke interest.
"What I would say is that I wouldn't write anything on Twitter that I didn't believe. Any statement I make on Twitter, or is contained in my writing, I would stand by 100%."