Monday 23 April 2018

Jose Mourinho picks out three players for special praise after Manchester United's win over FC Basel

Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho

Evan Bartlett

Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic may have cost all the money but it was an altogether more unlikely trio who earned Jose Mourinho’s praise after Manchester United’s 3-0 win over FC Basel.

Victor Lindelof, signed at the beginning of this summer, has endured an unsteady start to life at Old Trafford but played at the heart of a defence which kept a clean sheet on Tuesday night.

Mourinho acknowledged that the Swedish centre-half, who was making his first start for United, has some adapting to do before earning a full-time place in the side but still picked him out for special mention.

"If Lindelof has to play in the Premier League I have no problem with that. Can he make a mistake that comes with adapting to the nature of the Premier League? I think he can," Mourinho said.

"But the nature of the Premier League is also changing and we need defenders who can play, who can come into the midfield bringing the ball because it's becoming really defensive and we're going to face many teams with five in the back and two or three in front.

"Victor of all our defenders is probably the one to bring more quality when he attacks the midfield."

Pogba, United’s captain for the night, limped off in the first-half with a hamstring injury to be replaced by the much maligned Marouane Fellaini.

But the big Belgian midfielder helped United break the deadlock in the first-half and was just as influential when running back and halting Basel attacks.

“A lot more important than you can imagine,” was Mourinho’s analysis when questioned on Fellaini’s worth to the team.

“I feel weaker without Fellaini in my squad, doesn't matter if it's on the pitch or on the bench,” he added. “I need him.”

Ashley Young, making his first appearance for four months following surgery, returned at right-back and laid on Fellaini for United’s opener.

The 32-year-old also displayed his defensive prowess, putting in five blocks and three interceptions, and Mourinho was quick to praise his professionalism.

"Young was impressive but not a surprise. I left Valencia on the bench because I know what he can do, it's no different to when I played him in so many positions last season.

"He is always positive in his answer. He had a big injury last year, surgery and recovery was really intensive and his approach has been the same in training."

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