Jose Mourinho brought off Marcus Rashford because he was 'scared the referee would be influenced by Gary Neville'
Jose Mourinho claimed that he substituted goalscorer Marcus Rashford in Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool because he was concerned Gary Neville’s half-time verdict that the striker should have been dismissed would influence referee Craig Pawson.
The United manager was responding to questions about the crowd booing his decision to replace Rashford with Marouane Fellaini, with the 20 year-old having scored two first-half goals. Mourinho said that he had been told about Neville’s half-time analysis on Sky Sports in which he said that the striker, booked for a foul on James Milner, was in danger of being dismissed.
Mourinho said: “To react against me and my decisions, that is not a problem for me. At half-time someone told me Gary Neville was asking for Marcus Rashford to get a red card. And I was scared as I thought maybe the referee was watching at half-time and was influenced by Gary. So when we were more defensive, as Liverpool in the second half pushed us [I made the change].
“When Liverpool brought a lot of players to the centre of the pitch and brought Ashley Young inside, Marcus Rashford was defending the corner against [Trent] Alexander-Arnold. With the yellow card and the pressure for Gary asking for a red card, I made the decision to play a player that could make a foul on Alexander [without being dismissed].”
The referee is not permitted to watch the half-time coverage and Mourinho did not appear to be entirely serious. He also criticised the home fans for groaning in the 57th minute when midfielder Scott McTominay passed the ball back into his own half with United going forward, a decision which prompted applause from his manager.
Mourinho said: “The fans can do what they want. I am not upset at all with that reaction. I am upset with the reaction they had with Scott McTominay, that kid who is 20 year's old was making all the right decisions and they wanted him to make the wrong decisions.
“So when the kid decides to break the intensity of the ball, did not lose the ball, kept possession, plays a pass back and comes up with a solution to keep the ball in the opponents’ half - it was a wonderful solution that many top, top players with experience don’t do. But he did it and the fans reacted against the kid. That for me was the bad one.”
Mourinho said that his side had spotted the weakness in Dejan Lovren that enabled Romelu Lukaku to dominate the Liverpool centre-back and create the two goals for Rashford. He said: “We gave options to the players. We have different options. I am not a kind of mechanic coach that says, ‘A pass to B, B pass to C, C pass to D’. I am much more supportive of preparing players well and to feel the game.
“We had different options. We also had the possibility of the long ball to McTominay and bringing [Andy] Robertson wide for the long ball in the air. Lukaku was confident by his experience that he could be dominant in relation to Lovren and it worked.”
Jurgen Klopp said that his team had been guilty of giving Lukaku too much room for manoeuvre. “In the situations around the two goals, it was not like it should be,” he said. “You cannot leave a player like Lukaku alone. We trained for that, of course. They scored twice. One team gets a big boost, and the other a big blow. We came back minute by minute in the game. We put them under pressure and had good moments in the box.”
Klopp was unhappy that Sadio Mane was not awarded a second-half penalty for a challenge from Fellaini. He said that it was not the case that Liverpool’s attacking, possession-heavy approach had cost them. “It was not that United’s style won or our style lost. It was the same issue around second balls. You have to do what you have to do. Our mistake was not to do that. It was nothing to do with the system.”