LIVERPOOL — Jose Mourinho insisted he was happy with the effort of his players in their 3-1 defeat at bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday, but it didn’t take Manchester United’s manager long to start having a dig at his players “physicality”.
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Mourinho spoke to reporters after the humiliating defeat at Anfield, as the scoreline didn’t tell the story of just how dominant Liverpool were.
United lost Chris Smalling in the warm up and played an injured Eric Bailly, struggling Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young as the likes of Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia were missing amid a string of injuries.
When asked about the style of his team Portuguese coach once again referred to “mad dogs” he had in his previous teams, and once again suggested this United squad do not possess the grit and ability to play through injury that he needs.
“First of all we have lots of problems related with physicality,” Mourinho said. “We have lots of players that I could consider injury prone. Some of our players are always injured. It is not just with me, it is before me. If you look to the stats with Mr. Van Gaal and David [Moyes], in that period we have players that are permanently injured. When you are permanently injured physicality is very hard to get.”
He then went on to describe the qualities his team has, and seemed to go around in circles before lauding Liverpool’s physical, high intensity players.
“Then you have qualities which a player either does or he doesn’t have. You cannot improve, make them have, I give you an example: Robertson, Mane, Salah, Wijnaldum, Keita, Fabinho. They are physical players, on top of that they are good players technically, I also have lots of good players, technically, but we don’t have many players with that intensity, with that physicality,” Mourinho said. “So when the game has high levels of intensity it is difficult for us. First 20 minutes was difficult for us. Then when we had the ball, the tension and intensity went down it was easier for us to be in the game and to bring the game into our side, to play the way we can. Those are our qualities.”
Not content with lauding Liverpool’s intensity and having a pop at the lack of physicality of United’s squad, Mourinho then went on a trip down memory lane, rattling off how great his teams at Porto, Real Madrid and Inter Milan were in different playing systems.
“You look to say some times that it is the managers choice. You can compare my Porto team with Liverpool. The qualities of the players are there,” Mourinho said. “It was my best team in defensive transition. We lose the ball, we bite like mad dogs and recover the ball after two seconds. In Real Madrid I had my best team in direct counter attack because I had young Di Maria, young Ronaldo, young Higuain and young Benzema. We killed everybody in offensive transition. In Inter I had my best team in a defensive low block, Materazzi, Samuel, Lucio, Cordoba in a low block you can be there five hours and you don’t concede a goal. Players make teams play in a certain way.”
Right now, whatever players Mourinho has at his disposal aren’t getting it done as they’re 11 points off the top four and have now lost away at Man City and Liverpool, as well as Brighton and West Ham.
“I believe we are going to make many more points in the second part of the season than we did in the first part,” Mourinho said. “I know we lost some of the other matches, but we played away at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, probably the three best teams apart from Tottenham. We played with them away.”
The excuses keep on rolling out of Mourinho’s mouth and with United’s banged up squad, and with star players being left on the bench such as Paul Pogba, the Red Devils look like they have no clear plan and are destined to finish outside of the top four.
One word can sum up United’s season so far under Mourinho: regression.
It is tough to see how he is going to turn this tide around and last beyond the end of the 2018-19 campaign.