Nemanja Matic

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Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

WATCH: Valencia smashes volley to give Man Utd lead

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Jordan Pickford didn’t have much of a chance on Antonio Valencia‘s wonderful opener.

Manchester United took a 1-0 lead on visiting Everton on Sunday thanks to a fourth-minute marker from the Ecuadorian national team captain.

[ STREAM: Manchester United vs. Everton ]

A quick free kick was played short to Nemanja Matic, who hit a ball across the arc of the 18 for Valencia.

The 32-year-old then smashed a near side volley past a flying Pickford, the keeper’s dive making the goal look even better.

Jose Mourinho: Neymar transfer “changed everything”

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Jose Mourinho is patting himself on the back for getting his transfer business done early in the window.

Manchester United spent a reported $190 million on signing Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof, but Mourinho believes that the club would have had to spend even more had the transfers come after Neymar’s $260 million move.

[ MORE: Full lineups, PL stats, box scores ]

“I think we were very clever,” Mourinho told the Times UK. “We thought that something could happen that could change the market forever. Normally the last part of the market is less expensive, but this season, after Neymar [left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record £199 million deal], everything changed — and changed for the worse in terms of prices. I think Lukaku on August 31 would have been £150 million. Matic would have been £60 million or £70 million. Neymar changed everything. If the biggest transfer in history had still been Pogba, I think Philippe Coutinho [the Liverpool playmaker] would now be in Barcelona at £101 million.

“People look to the £200 million figure now. Now the players of £20 million became £40 million, the players of £40 million became £60 million and everything changed. Lukaku and Matic, now, would have cost us £200 million in total. But because we did it in the first part of the summer, it was much less. I think we did well in financial terms and well in preparation terms, getting them before the season started. That is not crucial but it is important.”

Mourinho has a right to be happy about his work in the transfer market. He was able to bring in three players to improve the team’s spine and Man United is flying high with three wins out of three to lead the Premier League.

Now it remains to be seen whether Man United can keep up the strong performances throughout the rest of the season, giving Mourinho his fourth Premier League title.

Pogba on Manchester United return: “I have come back as a man”

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Perhaps no one feels as good about Manchester United’s signing of Nemanja Matic as his midfield mate Paul Pogba, with both having starring roles — who didn’t, really? — as United battered West Ham 4-0 on Sunday.

“Against West Ham, Matic was starting behind and I could worry more about attacking,” Pogba told The Telegraph. “I feel good playing that way,”

The French midfielder’s quotes are part of an interview with The Telegraph.

[MORE: Hoffenheim 1-2 Liverpool | Klopp reacts to W 

Pogba, of course, came back to Manchester United on a world record transfer fee in the Summer of 2016, and with that came a lot of pressure.

The player, 24, says he’s noticed that the media has moved on from the price tag talk and is talking more about the play on the field. Pogba says he came back from Juventus a much different person.

“When I left I always felt like I had missed something at United because I wasn’t a first XI player. Now I’m happy to be back. I grew up a lot in Italy and I have come back as a man. I am always confident and now it is my second season. I know more about the Premier League and I adapt more with the team.”

Pogba made just seven appearances for United by the time he left on a free transfer in 2012, his three Premier League matches amounting to a total of 68 minutes.

Now back and a focal point, Pogba was sure to point out that his goal against West Ham was only important in that it helps put the club on a path toward silverware. Read all his comments here.

VIDEO: Romelu Lukaku feasts after Rashford, Matic make difference

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A goal was coming to Old Trafford in the first half of Manchester United’s home opener versus West Ham United, and Romelu Lukaku provided it.

[ MORE: Watch the second half, or start from 0:00 here ]

Chances were not at a premium as Jose Mourinho’s men poured forward at the Irons.

The build-up was impressive, as Nemanja Matic broke up a spell of West Ham possession to spring Marcus Rashford toward the box.

Then came the big Belgian and his powerful left foot.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]