Mourinho's emotions boil over as United win in Fellaini time
Manchester United 1 Young Boys 0
When finally Manchester United broke through, Jose Mourinho turned away to pick up his players' basket of water bottles and smash them into the ground - and if it took all his effort then so be it, he was like an old rocker whose guitar has to pay for the sheer adrenaline of the performance.
Rarely will a Marouane Fellaini injury-time winner provoke such strong emotions, but then this was a night when it felt like the writing was on the wall for Manchester United, drifting to a draw against one of the weakest teams in the Champions League. By the end the team had been torn up and put back together more than once, the crowd were going home and Paul Scholes was waiting in the BT Sport studio to assess the whole mess.
Whatever you say about this strange United team of late 2018, at least they never stop trying because without that effort there was not a hell of a lot left. They were launching the ball into Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku by the end and on this occasion it has to be said that the crudest of plans worked.
For those left at Old Trafford, there was a Fergie-time finish to a forgettable evening that sees United through to the second round in what will surely be second place behind Juventus.
After defeat by Manchester City and the draw with Crystal Palace, this was a game that had a significance beyond the result and for a long time that looked like it would be a hard judgement on Mourinho. He tried to win this game without the two most expensive signings in the club's history, and then when that did not work he tried to do so with them, but whatever way he imagines this United side working, the reality is very different.
He left Paul Pogba and Lukaku on the bench, and Alexis Sanchez was not even in the squad, yet for all the shock treatment that the United manager tries to apply, the outcome just seems to be the same.
When dropping Pogba and Lukaku no longer seemed to be working he tried bringing them on and eventually it was Lukaku who got a head on to Luke Shaw's cross into the box for Fellaini to turn and hit the winner.
Even so, no one could ignore the bigger picture of a team out of step with whatever it is their manager is trying to do. As he walked off afterwards, Mourinho seemed to be contemplating the dysfunctional evening.
He placed faith in Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, but when the former missed a goalscoring chance after five minutes the despair and self-pity from Mourinho on the touchline seemed to contaminate the mood.
In the second half they relied on another wonderful save from David De Gea until eventually the winner came in a final few minutes when both sides were stretched. Young Boys had defended tenaciously and got so close to a famous result. For United, it was their first goal at Old Trafford in three Champions League games.
These were drastic changes for drastic times. A reaction was required and at least there was some energy in the early stages and perhaps if Rashford had finished one of the two chances his committed running created then it would have been different.
Mourinho shook his head sadly both times, enough that the United manager knew the television cameras would pick it up. Rashford's determination was admirable and put under pressure, a team as mediocre at this level as Young Boys were always likely to cough up a couple of chances.
Perhaps for Mourinho these are the fine margins which are not going his way, albeit part of a wider picture of the wrong strategy and wrong players.
A little more composure and Rashford would have taken one of those chances, the best of which arrived after five minutes when Lingard redirected a ball into midfield by Shaw and the English striker was through with just the goalkeeper to beat. No easy task, taken on the run with David von Ballmoos for Young Boys coming off his line quickly, but when it was all over the reaction to the miss from Mourinho was instructive. He turned to his bench with arms outstretched, palms open appealing against his own misfortune. Mourinho has a tendency to believe that everything is his players' fault and he appears to have no way of hiding that.
A flick from Lingard after 26 minutes put Rashford in again and, once more, he just could not get his shot where he wanted it. The second-half save from De Gea was magnificent, a ball that was deflected off the Young Boys right-back Kevin Mbabu and having been loose in the box was on its way into the corner. De Gea got himself across and down with a right hand behind the ball and scooped it out.
That was the 70th minute and United were losing their way, despite Mourinho having made the inevitable changes, first Pogba and Lukaku on for Fred and Lingard and then eventually Juan Mata for Antonio Valencia.
Fellaini, part of a four-man attack late on, was in the area at the right time to bring down the flick-on from Lukaku, turn the full-back Loris Benito and wrong-foot Von Ballmoos with his shot. Cue the wild reaction from Mourinho, which showed just how close he knew he was to a terrible result. (© Daily Telegraph, London)