'Everything is positive' - Jose Mourinho's alternative and debatable verdict on a one-sided Manchester derby
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho insisted he was content with the efforts of his players in their 3-1 defeat against Manchester City, even though they failed to register a single a shot on target from open play.
Anthony Martial's second-half penalty was their only threatening moment in front of goal, yet Mourinho cited his side's difficult recent run of fixtures that has included away games at Chelsea and Juventus as an excuse for their display at the Etihad Stadium.
Former United defender and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville suggested there was a huge gulf in class between a table-topping City side now 12 points ahead of their stuttering local rivals, but Mourinho chose to offer up an alternative narrative.
"I think it is not a bad performance at all. It was a performance with mistakes and we paid for it," stated the United manager. "All three goals are our mistakes. Against a team like City, if you make mistakes you will get punished.
"We had two matches away (Juventus last Wednesday), it is not the physical effort but the mental pressure. I think some of the boys felt it a little bit. You cannot expect to win three away games like we had this week (also beat Bournemouth last weekend).
"Everybody has to agree. It is one thing to go to Juventus and play against one of the best teams in the world for 90 minutes. Another thing to beat Shakhtar Donetsk at home 6-0 and be very relaxed. We arrive in different circumstances.
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"One thing is a bad performance and one thing is a performance with mistakes. I think ours was a performance with mistakes. It is football and for me it is even more football when we have a week where we play three consecutive matches away and Manchester City play three consecutive games at home. Our last match against Juventus left some scars in the team.
"For me, zero words against my players, everything is positive. I am with them and they are with me. There is a gap, Manchester City start playing from the beginning of the season at a certain level that allows them to get a lot of points. Now we are a much better team than at the beginning of the season when we lost a lot of points."
When asked whether this defeat ended United's Premier League title hoped just 12 games into the season, Mourinho offered a spiky response as he added: "We are not in the top four, so how can you talk about the title?
"What we can do is continue to work, show that we are moving forward and if we get to moment when we are in the top four, then we see how big the gap is to the top team."
United head into the international break seven points behind fourth placed Tottenham, with a vastly inferior goal difference as they are the only team in the top half of the Premier League table with a negative goal difference, conceding one more goal than they have scored so far this season.