Saturday 21 September 2019

Players 'give everything' but are physically weaker than rivals, insists Mourinho

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Reuters
Jose Mourinho compared Liverpool to his FC Porto team of 2004. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

Jose Mourinho accused his Manchester United team of being physically and technically weaker than Liverpool as he succumbed to his first defeat to his great rivals since moving to Old Trafford.

Mourinho's assessment of the 3-1 loss was a defence of his deteriorating reign as much as the outcome. He praised Liverpool, while lamenting his own players' lack of similar traits.

United were made to sound like plucky underdogs performing admirably to hang on to Jurgen Klopp's coat-tail prior to Xherdan Shaqiri's late double.

"The players gave everything, and when the players give everything I am never frustrated towards them. I have a good feeling towards them," said Mourinho. "They play in relation to their qualities, the same way Liverpool play in relation to their qualities.

"We have lots of players that I could consider injury prone because some of our players are always injured. It was before me. It was - if you look to the stats with Mr Van Gaal and before Mr Van Gaal with David - if you look to that period we have lots of players who are permanently injured.

"When you are permanently injured, physicality is very difficult to get.

"Then there are qualities that a player has or doesn't have. You cannot improve or make them have. I will give you an example. Robertson, Mane, Salah, Wijnaldum, Keita, Fabinho, they are physical players and, on top of that, they are good players technically.

"I also have lot of good players technically but we don't have lots of players with that intensity, that physicality, so when the game has high levels of intensity, it is difficult for us."

Mourinho, who lost Chris Smalling to an injury in the warm-up, suggested his United squad lacked players with the characteristics not only of Liverpool, but his most successful teams at previous clubs.

"You can compare my Porto team with Liverpool," he said. "They are fast, they are intense, they are aggressive, they are physical, they have an objective. They play 200 miles per hour with and without the ball.

"I am still tired just looking at Robertson. He makes 100-metre sprints every minute, absolutely incredible.

"You can compare (with Porto). The qualities of the players are there. It was my best team in defensive transition. We lose the ball and we bite like mad dogs and recover the ball after a few seconds.

"In Real Madrid, I had my best team in direct counter-attack because I had a young Di Maria, young Ronaldo, young Higuain and young Benzema and, in Inter, I had my best team in a defensive low block.

"You can be there for five hours and you don't concede a goal. Players make teams play in a certain way."

Asked why he had not corrected his squad's flaws over four transfer windows, Mourinho said: "I don't think a football team is just a squad. It is much more than a squad and I repeat I am really, really happy with the players I had on the pitch with their effort with their attitude.

"They gave everything, honest people who gave absolutely everything. I feel really sorry for them because their effort didn't deserve to lose the game in the way we did. If we concede two goals in the first 20 minutes I would say 'OK, the best team killed us in the first 20 minutes'. To lose the way we did? I feel sorry for the boys."

Man City spent Saturday night at the summit after their 3-1 victory over Everton, but Klopp insisted that he and his players are paying no attention to Pep Guardiola's side.

"We ignored (City's result) completely. I cannot say we passed (a test) because we didn't think about it. I didn't mention it one time.

"I had time to watch City yesterday because we play them in a few weeks, but after the good start of Everton the game headed in one direction and City had the normal problem of playing Champions League game, then on Saturday lunchtime.

"But we are not silly. We are focused on our thing, and we will see where that leads us to.

"At the end of the season, when we are still around them, where we have to think about it and start hoping they have to drop points or whatever, maybe, I don't know.

"But at the moment, we respect them a lot and they respect us and we have to win football games against all the others. Then we meet on January 3 again, and then we think about City a lot." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport