LONDON — Jose Mourinho rued poor defensive mistakes from his Manchester United side on Wednesday as they lost 2-0 at Wembley to Tottenham Hotspur.
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United never recovered and Phil Jones shanked a clearance into his own goal Tottenham’s second goal and, in truth, the 2-0 scoreline was flattering for United as Spurs missed several glorious opportunities to extend their lead further.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Mourinho didn’t mince his words.
“It’s a performance that starts with a ridiculous goal,” Mourinho said. “That goal after a few seconds has a big influence in the game because Tottenham can play the way they like to play. In the end, we played against a very good team. Both goals were ridiculous goals, also the second was unlucky. The first goal is an accumulation of mistakes in spite of the fact that everything happened so fast. My players have watched the Tottenham kick-off many, many times. They know the way they do it and they also know [Harry] Kane normally starts in a position in front of the line to win some metres. We didn’t control it, lost the second ball on the ground and it was a really, really bad goal.”
Ys, United made poor defensive mistakes, but Mourinho must take his portion of the blame. When the team sheets were passed around at Wembley (which saw a record crowd for a Premier League game of 81,798) United’s attacking intent was clear. Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard all started but the Red Devils were unbalanced and Nemanja Matic overrun in midfield.
It’s unlikely Mourinho will go all-out attack against a top six rival away from home again anytime soon.
The defeat now drags United further into the top four battle as they’re just five points ahead of fifth-place Spurs with an almighty scrap for the Champions League spots set to take center stage in the final months of the season with Manchester City 15 points clear and the champions elect.
Another talking point from the game was Alexis Sanchez’s Premier League debut for United as he returned to north London but didn’t enjoy taking on his former bitter rivals Spurs.
The ex-Arsenal man failed to have a shot on goal and cut a frustrated figure as Tottenham gave him special treatment with tough tackles and tight marking, as well as Spurs fans booing his every touch.
Mourinho was happy enough with Sanchez’s output as he switched him from the left flank in the first half to a central attacking role in the second half.
“He worked hard, but again the transformation the game had, the game was not for him,” Mourinho said. “In the second half, I tried to give him a position where he could be closer to [Romelu] Lukaku but then he felt the need to drop too much to organise. But he gave everything, good effort and this is a good feeling for me to know that the player is available with that spirit.”
United’s manager also teed up the battle between his club and four others for the three remaining Champions League spots as Man City moved 15 points clear atop the Premier League table on Wednesday.
“Yes, the Premier League finishes for us at Old Trafford in the last match against Watford in May but we knew that the distance to the leader was already considerable, even before this match,” Mourinho said. “Now we have us, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal – we will be there fighting for the positions.”