Tuesday 21 November 2017

Manchester on the march

Mourinho bemused by his sending-off as United keep up the pace with rampant City at summit

Leroy Sane celebrates after scoring Manchester City’s first goal yesterday in the 5-0 win overCrystal Palace,and, right, Jose Mourinho is sent from the line by referee Craig Pawson. Photo: AFP/Getty
Leroy Sane celebrates after scoring Manchester City’s first goal yesterday in the 5-0 win overCrystal Palace,and, right, Jose Mourinho is sent from the line by referee Craig Pawson. Photo: AFP/Getty

Declan Warrington

Jose Mourinho insisted he did not know why he was sent off in the final minutes of Manchester United's 1-0 victory at Southampton yesterday as he bizarrely blamed their underwhelming performance on the good weather.

United appeared in such control midway through the first half after Romelu Lukaku's close-range finish that their latest convincing, one-sided win appeared almost certain to follow.

Instead, the hosts grew in confidence at the same rate at which United's energy waned, and by the end they were hanging on to the three points in the warm conditions.

Mourinho's team now has a club record-equalling 16 points for this stage of a Premier League season, though further difficulties could yet arise following Mourinho's dismissal by referee Craig Pawson in second-half stoppage time.

"We are better this season than last," said Mourinho. "But this is nothing. It's just a start. I really think that six teams are going to fight for the title."

But the Portuguese insisted he did not know the reason for his dismissal. "I don't know," he said. "Craig told me to leave, and I left. Did I ask for an explanation? No. He told me to leave, and I left. (I collided) with the fourth official (Mike Jones)."

Jose Mourinho is sent from the line by referee Craig Pawson. Photo: Reuters
Jose Mourinho is sent from the line by referee Craig Pawson. Photo: Reuters

Mourinho also said his players had tired badly on a warm afternoon on the south coast. "The weather was beautiful. Even if you train at 11am, 12pm, 3pm in Manchester, we don't get this weather. Seriously. The last time we had this was in Los Angeles, and then in Macedonia, and they felt (it).

"I saw some players not sharp. Great spirit and always trying, but not the same sharpness. So if your opponent is coming with everything against you, let's do it for 10 or 15 minutes and stay solid."

Mourinho was also asked about United's supporters again using their controversial chant for Romelu Lukaku - one Kick It Out have called "offensive and discriminatory" - and the 54-year-old responded: "I don't understand what the fans sing. The only music I understand clearly is one from my opponents when they tell Mourinho to go to a place.

"But the only thing I will say is the fans were amazing; the support amazing. It's important to have that not when you're winning 3-0 or 4-0 and winning the game, but it's more important when you are defending and are exhausted.

Manchester City's 5-0 rout of Crystal Palace puts them ahead of United on goal difference at the top of the table.

Leroy Sane delivered a brilliant performance, but boss Pep Guardiola revealed the German had not merited inclusion in his starting XI at the start of the season after a poor summer.

The 21-year-old was nominated for last term's PFA Young Player of the Year award having scored nine times from December onwards, yet he only started one of City's opening five league fixtures this season.

However, Sane was brought in for Gabriel Jesus yesterday and responded with a stellar showing, scoring the first and creating the second as the hosts - for whom Raheem Sterling scored twice and Sergio Aguero and Fabian Delph also found the net - heaped more misery on pointless Palace.

"Now I have five strikers and all of them deserve to play - all of them," said Guardiola. "All of them are going to play. Some of them are going to rest and the next game play. I need them sharp. "

Aguero moved within one goal of City's all-time record with his 176th for the club.

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