Wednesday 17 January 2018

'Manchester Derby was too big for some of my players' - Jose Mourinho turns on starting XI

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine

Sam Wallace

Jose Mourinho claimed that the Manchester derby was too big for some of his United players to handle after they failed to recover from falling two goals behind to Pep Guardiola’s City within the first 36 minutes, eventually losing the game 2-1.

The new Manchester United manager also said that he wished he could have substituted Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard after 20 minutes of the game and would have done so but did not want to “destroy” their confidence.

ourinho also claimed that referee Mark Clattenburg had denied his team two penalties that changed the course of the game. Pep Guardiola’s new goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, the replacement for Joe Hart, gifted a goal to Zlatan Ibrahimovic after Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho had put City 2-0 up.

Mourinho was outspoken about his players’ poor first half performance in a manner that was reminiscent of some of his darker moments last season when Chelsea went into a tailspin that he could not arrest.

He said: “Some of the boys they felt the dimension of the game and everything around it … the derby, the game, the focus of attention. Some of the guys, they felt it. It is nothing to do with experience and age. The kid [Marcus Rashford, who came on at half-time] looks like he is playing for the Under-18s against Salford City. Every individual reacts to demands of the occasion in different ways.”

He added: “It gets easier when you know the players well. You see how they react. Probably in the next big Premier League game I will know who can accept the dimension of the game, which is important.

Mourinho said it was “not just” Mkhitaryan and Lingard, making their first league starts under a new manager, although they were clearly a major source of frustration. He said: “We were losing the ball so easily and their pressing meant we were never able to bring the defensive line up.

“I didn’t change [the team] after 20 minutes because I don’t want to destroy the players. I didn’t want to make three changes at half-time but if there were a free number of changes and changes during the first half were normal … I would have done it after 20 minutes.

“It was not just about them. Other players were not playing really well and obviously it is always my decision. I don’t like to go in the direction of the players and single them out. Lots of our team didn’t play well in the first half and that responsibility is my responsibility.”

Mourinho was critical of Eric Bailly and Daley Blind and said that he had frank words with his team at half-time. “I told them at half time, ‘Some of you are trying to do what I told you not to do’.” He said that Clattenburg has “punished” United by failing to give a penalty against Bravo for a foul on Wayne Rooney and also for a Nicolas Otamendi handball.

“The reality is that the penalty and red card [for Bravo] we are talking about a completely different match. We were punished by a bad first half and we were punished by Mark. That’s football.”

Guardiola refused to criticise Bravo and said he was glad the City goalkeeper had carried on taking the kind of risks he wanted him to take even after the mistake for United’s goal. “Sometimes when that happens maybe the player can think ‘It is my fault’,” Guardiola said.

“Instead Claudio said, ‘Okay it's football. We were unlucky. The situation is unlucky. In that moment in the second half, look what he did: he played again and again with the ball. I know it's a risk. If we lose the ball it is a goal against us but when we win with that, we win many, many, many things.”

Guardiola also said that Aleksandar Kolarov lost a tooth – which was in a clash with Marouane Fellaini. City also thought they deserved a penalty.

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