Jose Mourinho received his first setback of the season and what made it even more painful was that it came against his team’s city rivals Manchester City. The derby was so highly anticipated that it threatened to turn in to an anticlimactic dampener if it was even slightly dull, but it wasn’t to be. It turned out to be one of the most interesting, box to box and highly entertaining game, quite the opposite of last year’s fixture. But in the end, it was a no pointer for the Reds of Manchester.
The game slipped out of their hand in the first half an hour where Manchester United players looked unbelievable undercooked and ill-prepared, it might be the international break, but that cannot be the excuse. Henrik Mkhitaryan, who got his first start of the season, had a terrible game and the manager took no qualms in replacing him as soon as he can. But it wasn’t just him, Daley Blind, too, had an ordinary game and played a crucial part in giving away the first goal. There were a few other below par performances and only if the players could have started the game like they played in the second half, things could have been different. A couple of substitutions saw United pick up the pace again and one that impressed was Ander Herrera. He expressed his disappointment post match but also talked about the grit and determination in United’s game in the second half.
“It is disappointing for us. We are now not happy. We have lost a derby in front of our fans and it is painful. We have to be balanced in our analysis. This is the first game we have not played the best. We have crossed a lot of balls and put them under pressure.
“We have to take some good things. The attitude and spirit in the second half was fantastic. City will lose points as well. We are three points off top and we want to be champions.
“We didn’t start good. Every duel went for them. We have to study why that happened. But we have played well so far. This was not our best game but we created four or five chances to draw the game.”
The game was so close that only if a couple of decisions would have gone United’s way, it could have been a completely different proposition. The Nicolas Otamendi handball in the box and the Claudio Bravo lunge against Wayne Rooney could have easily been penalties and things would have been significantly different. Jose Mourinho too felt the same way
“Mark made two big mistakes. Claudio Bravo is a penalty and a red card – if one of my players do that in the middle of the park – if Fellaini or Rooney do that in the middle of the park – it’s a red card and a free-kick.
“In the box it is more difficult to give and he didn’t want to give it.
“The second one is a handball by Nicolas Otamendi – some pundits will say no because it’s the back of the arm but he knows. He’ s looking at the ball. We are not happy with these decisions.”
But he was also honest in accepting his team’s poor first half an hour performance as well.
“I cannot be happy with our first half. The first half is as important as the second half. We had individuals who did not give us what we were expecting – three, four or five players. Obviously they are the first ones to be disappointed. They self-analyse and know they were not there. We gave them an advantage in 45 mins.”
He continued with his review of some of the player’s performances but assumed all the responsibility eventually
“Look, honestly, I had two or three players in the first half who, if the game was played now and I know what is going to happen, then I wouldn’t play them. But this is football and sometimes players, they disappoint managers, and sometimes players, they give us great surprises.
“I thought because of the characteristics of the game we could hurt them playing with some individuals with some qualities, they didn’t give what I want. Is it their fault? Is it my fault? It’s my fault because I’m the manager and it’s always my fault because it’s always my choice.”
The manager, however, had some kind(er) words for the players regarding their second half performances but rightfully blamed the first 30 minutes for the loss.
“The two halves were completely different. In the first half we were below the level to play this match. You have to be completely ready in terms of the speed of your thinking and decision making. We had a few players who were not at that level – we lost easy balls and let them recover the ball. We paid for our mistakes.
“The second half was completely different. We were a team that had the courage and honesty and dignity to chase with pride the result which I think we deserved – we deserved a goal in the second half.”
The loss hurts, more so than the other times, but ultimately is just one game and Mourinho and his team now know a thirty-minute performance can make or break the game, something that the players found out last season at the Emirates. With just three points off the top and four games in the season, United know it is just the start and there is a long way to go. Hopefully, the players pick up quickly and get ready for a month full of games. Over to Europa League now.