Jose Mourinho praises Manchester United for the ‘team effort’ after Chelsea victory at the Theatre of Dreams

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho spoke about many aspects of the 2-1 victory over reigning Premier League champions, Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday. The defeat for the London club has seen them drop out of the top four in the league with Tottenham Hotspur beating Crystal Palace in the earlier kick-off on Sunday. United regained second place in the league after Liverpool took charge of the position for some 11 hours with United sitting level on goal difference but two points better off.

United fell behind in the match after Willian broke behind United’s defensive line and fired a shot diagonally past David De Gea. The lead for the visitors lasted just seven minutes after Romelu Lukaku scored the equaliser which was assisted by Anthony Martial. It was Lukaku’s 22nd goal for Manchester United and his first against his former club. Perhaps those who operate Football Twitter will now be able to drop that “Lukaku has not scored against a big club” rubbish now?

The match was won after Jesse Lingard replaced Martial in the 64th minute of the match and just 11 minutes later, the Academy graduate fired his 13th goal of the season, the eighth in the Premier League with a stunning header after Lukaku played the ball into the box. Lingard then celebrated by recognising the Black Panther, a recent release in the cinema. Mourinho spoke about the important result, his second victory over his former club at the Theatre of Dreams, speaking about how his side beat a very good team:

“I think we beat a fantastic team. For some reason, they were the champions last season. For some reason, they played the way they did against Barcelona. For some reason, they started the game so well as they started here.

“We beat a very good team and to beat a very good team, you need to be organised but you also need to have a humble spirit where everybody works, everybody fights, everybody tries to follow a game plan. I repeat, we beat a very good team.”

Mourinho then went into detail about how tight the match was. Last season, United won this fixture 2-0 after Ander Herrera man-marked Eden Hazard out of the game with both Herrera and Marcus Rashford scoring the goals. This game was not going to be like that, especially after Willian opened the scoring 13 minutes before the end of the first half. The equaliser scored by Lukaku opened the game up and United looked more likely to score again in the second half, which they did. Speaking about the tightness of the game, Mourinho said:

“They started very well, it’s as simple as that. When Chelsea hit the posts, I was looking to my players and I was thinking ‘what could we do?’ or ‘who can I blame?’ but it was so beautifully played that I had nothing to say. They are a very good team – they have big routines of their football. They have a fantastic dynamic of the way they project the wing-backs.

“I was trying to find a way for my players to be dangerous in the interior football because through the sides Chelsea are very, very strong, so we found a way to play against them where we didn’t concede much.

“I think we had a good control of Eden [Hazard], Willian, of course, is an amazing player and in that action [his goal] he killed us, but we took progression of the game, we had more and more control of the game without creating lots of chances because we didn’t but they also didn’t. That’s the way I was expecting the game to be when I spoke with you before the game – a tight game.”

Scott McTominay started the match, his third in a row for United. Mourinho had tasked the 20-year-old to mark Hazard, which he did to the best of his abilities, also getting involved in other aspects of the game. Many criticise United’s Academy players, even so-called United supporters, suggesting they are not good enough to play in the team. There seems to be an obsession with having world class players when that is not necessary for every position in the team. Manchester United are built on foundations of youth and that continues. Mourinho, speaking about McTominay, said:

“I think he’s a fantastic player – a player that is what I call the modern midfield player, which in the end is a bit of what the top midfield players of the past were. They can do everything. The only thing he is not doing yet is scoring goals, which he can. But because I’m giving him different jobs, he’s not yet free to do that.

“We are starting from the basics and the basics he’s doing wonderfully well. I think he can also score goals – he has that talent. In pre-season, we understood that. But we are adapting him to his multi-functionality and he’s doing fantastic jobs for us, like he did in Sevilla against Ever Banega and today against Eden, so I’m really happy with the player.”

Mourinho closed with the great team effort which was shown in the victory. The Portuguese manager singled out praise to Nemanja Matic for being phenomenal, Paul Pogba for playing a fantastic game in the midfield – yet the media will continue to talk about this rift and the fact Pogba will leave in the summer. He then stated that he could speak about his central defenders; Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, and Eric Bailly, who played the final nine minutes or so. Also talking about his attacking players and the mission Alexis Sanchez had.

The United manager also mentioned McTominay again also talking about the big effort of the team as a collective. Mourinho, presumably after having been asked about the possibility of the match being a draw and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte suggesting a draw would have been a fair result, the Portuguese agreed that is was a possibility emphasising on the fact that United were much more confident in the second half of the game. Mourinho concluded by saying:

“I don’t like to individualise – I think [Nemanja] Matic was phenomenal, I think [Paul] Pogba played a fantastic game in our midfield. I could speak about my central defenders too and the guys in attack – the mission Alexis had, to be the third attacking player but at the same time the fourth midfield player to try to cover the area in front of Scott. I think everyone made a big effort.

“Could the result have been a draw? Yes, it could. But I think in the second half we were more confident, we felt more confident with the defensive base and I think if somebody deserved a victory it was us. But, if you were to say a draw, I would accept that. The important thing for us is that we beat a fantastic team.”

United will have a break of a week before they play a match with the Premier League encounter with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park being played on Monday 5th March 2018, which will kick-off at 20:00 GMT and will be shown live in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports Premier League HD. United will be seeking another win in the league to cement their standing in second place, which could see them fall to third again in the league by the end of the weekend with Liverpool just two points behind United, entertaining Newcastle United at Anfield.

United will face their North West rivals in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday 10th March 2018, kick-off 12:30 GMT – another big match they must win this season. The reverse fixture at Anfield earlier in the season resulted in a 0-0 draw. If United are intent on finished in second place this season, beating those around them is what will be needed. United have already been beaten by Spurs, so the victory over Chelsea is half-way there with just Liverpool to silence once again in the coming weeks.

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