Nemanja Matic

Matic on his wonder winner, what Mourinho said at halftime

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Nemanja Matic doesn’t score often, but when he does they seem to reverberate through the box score.

[ RECAP: Palace 2-3 Man Utd ]

Manchester United’s destroyer belted the crown jewel of the Red Devils 3-2 comeback win on Monday, waiting until stoppage time to give United its first lead.

He was asked where it ranks on his goals list.

“I think it was in the first 10, because I’ve scored only 10 in my life.”

The Serbian Steven Wright, everyone.

United was down 1-0 at the break, and went down 2-0 soon after the break. What did Mourinho tell them at the break?

“He said that we have to do more. He said he’s happy with how we fight, but it was not enough. We had to do more to win this game. We did in the second half after the second goal for Crystal Palace. We did exactly what he wanted from us.”

A pair of defensive errors put United behind the 8-ball, but there was no visible trepidation from the Red Devils away from home.

They’ll need to clean up their act before Sunday’s match at Liverpool, but the vibes will be just fine after a nice comeback win.


What’s happened to Chelsea? Neville believes it’s the loss of Matic

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The defending Premier League champions have looked a shell of themselves at times in the 2017/18 season, both domestically and in Europe, and it’s quite evident what the problem is, according to one former player.

[ MORE: Chelsea pummeled by Roma, Man United wins in Tuesday’s UCL action ]

Ex-Manchester United midfielder Phil Neville told BBC 5 Live that he believes Antonio Conte‘s biggest issue this season is the loss of Nemanja Matic in the midfield.

The Serbian midfielder exited the club just prior to the PL’s kick off this campaign after heading to Old Trafford, leaving a noticeable gap in the Blues’ heart.

“What’s gone wrong for Chelsea? One word. Matic,” Neville said following Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Roma on Tuesday.

“It’s as simple as that. The minute they sold Nemanja Matic was a mistake.

“When you had Matic sat in front of you, alongside [N’Golo] Kante, there was protection. Whoever made that decision needs sacking. That is one of the poorest decisions I have ever seen in the Premier League.

“If you ask any of those Chelsea players who they would want back, they would say Matic. Chelsea replaced him with someone who is going to do the same job – [Tiemoue] Bakayoko is not that player, he is not a holding midfield player.

“They didn’t replace Matic. I wouldn’t have let him out of the building, I would have chained him to the training ground walls.”

Mourinho: “We deserved victory”; Matic expects title challenge

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If you doubt whether Manchester United’s players are all-in with Jose Mourinho’s cagey system, listen to Nemanja Matic‘s post-match verdict after a defensive but effective 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday.

“They had more of the ball in the first half but we had more chances than them,” Matic said. “They play great football but it’s the result that matters in the end. If we continue like this we can challenge for the title.”

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

He’s not wrong, and this effort was far better and less safe than United’s disappointing scoreless draw with Liverpool two weeks ago. While there will be discussion about the entertainment value of counter-attacking a Harry Kane-less Spurs at home, Mourinho’s men were ready to go with commitment to the system.

Mourinho knew what he faced in Spurs, though he must’ve been surprised to see Mauricio Pochettino not go relatively like-for-like by inserting Fernando Llorente to start in Kane’s stead.

“It was tactically difficult for both and it was well refereed. It was strong, aggressive,” Mourinho said. “We knew if we had one defensive mistake we could lose and that’s what happened to them. We tried and we deserved the victory.”

“Today, every ball looked like the last ball of their careers.”

It was a performance Mourinho can be proud of, yet his noting that United didn’t show as much desperation against Huddersfield shows how hard it can be for a club to flip a switch from that battling, hard fouling mentality to a free-flowing style.

At this point, though, most hardware-hungry United fans will be content to keep in the race for the Premier League title, style or not. Now how will they react if United falls when Chelsea meets their tactics halfway next week?

Follow @NicholasMendola

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.