Sunday 27 May 2018

United lacked our fighting spirit: Ince

Huddersfield winger and son of Old Trafford hero feels attitude sets the Terriers apart

Huddersfield’s Tom Ince puts in a challenge on Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan at John Smith’s Stadium Photo: Reuters
Huddersfield’s Tom Ince puts in a challenge on Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan at John Smith’s Stadium Photo: Reuters

Ian Whittell

His father may once have infamously been labelled a "big time Charlie" by Alex Ferguson, but as Tom Ince surveyed the damage his side inflicted on Manchester United in Saturday's 2-1 victory for Huddersfield, he would have been forgiven for using similar vernacular to describe his dad's former club.

The Terriers' winger, son of former United midfielder Paul, did not, of course; possessing far too much diplomacy to launch the sort of verbal onslaught to which Jose Mourinho had subjected his players after their first Premier League defeat of the season. But as Mourinho struggled to explain an uncharacteristically lifeless and spineless display here, Huddersfield's response told its own story.

Every reference to "attitude", "mentality" and "togetherness" in describing the winners was a reminder of the qualities so lacking in United's display and which must have provided a major concern for Mourinho as he saw neighbours City move five points ahead in the table.

"Listen, the manager knows that, toe-to-toe, we can't deal with Manchester United," said Ince, who had a hand in Aaron Mooy's opening goal.

"They have got superior players who are world-class, elite players. What we can do is give the attitude and have the right mentality and desire to try and work for each other. We know that if we can cover the yards on the pitch and make it difficult for teams, make it ugly when they come here, then it gives us half a chance.

"We managed to do that today, everyone to a man, and we have to continue that now."

The tone for one of the shock results of the season was set as early as the seventh minute when home right-back Tommy Smith clattered into the ankles of Anthony Martial, who responded petulantly and sparked an altercation that earned both bookings.

Mood

It was a minor incident, one of dozens like it in any given game, but one which provided the mood music for what was to follow.

"I think little things like that get the crowd up, it sets the tone of the game," said Ince. "It shows that we're not just here to roll over, not here to give you space on the ball because if you give these players time and space on the ball they will punish you. I thought we did that.

"We were in their face every opportunity we got. But I don't think you can show intimidation to a side like this.

"If you show that then they see you're weak and they know that you're in awe of the players they've got," he added.

"It's Manchester United - of course the occasion is massive, to play against those type of players you sometimes have that real sense of 'what's going on here?' But we're 11 against their 11, and we work hard for each other, we show the right attitude."

Paul Ince, who celebrated a 50th birthday on the day his son was beating United, would have been forgiven for enjoying the result, given that notorious fly-on-the-wall documentary in which his former manager described him as a "big time Charlie" ahead of his return to Old Trafford with Liverpool.

For those were precisely the sort of traits shown by United's players here, although it did not help that one of the few players who would presumably have been up for the rain and wind-ravaged occasion, defender Phil Jones, was lost to an early injury which could prove problematic for Mourinho as the season continues.

His replacement, £31million Victor Lindelof, showed why his manager has yet to demonstrate faith in him with horrendous roles in the opening goal and Laurent Depoitre's second, when he completely misjudged a long punt forward by Terrier's keeper Jonas Lossl.

Marcus Rashford scored a late consolation, and United might have gone on to steal a point, but with the visitors failing to carve out consistent chances, Ince had an interesting tactical observation about their opponents' performance.

"When you look at United, they're obviously a top quality side but they don't really play with the same fluidity as your Spurs or your Man City," said Ince.

"They build up the game quite slow, they like to get it out wide and we felt that if we could win the ball back and try to exploit the space in behind - the space the full-backs leave because they go so high - then we were able to do that."

The man behind the tactical master plan, David Wagner, saw his cult hero status in Huddersfield ratchet up a few notches on Saturday, although as he turned his thoughts to this weekend's visit to Anfield and his close friend Jurgen Klopp, he was keen to manage expectations.

"I have no problems to work on the extraordinary," said Wagner.

"You only have to accept what is ordinary and what is extraordinary and we should not take for granted the extraordinary performances," the Huddersfield boss added.

"But after this result today, I expect a phone call from Jurgen saying thank you and well done," the German said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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