Mour­inho ac­cepts Fel­laini’s the fall guy

Bel­gian booed but Spurs win gives United fans some­thing to cheer

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Manch­ester, Eng­land

The boo­ing of mid­fielder Marouane Fel­laini by Manch­ester United fans was an ac­cept­able re­flec­tion of frus­tra­tion over the team’s re­cent re­sults, ac­cord­ing to man­ager Jose Mour­inho.

United ended a run of four con­sec­u­tive Pre­mier League draws at Old Traf­ford by beat­ing Tot­ten­ham 1-0 on Sun­day, thanks to a 29th-minute strike from the resur­gent Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan.

A week ear­lier, Fel­laini con­ceded a late penalty to gift Ever­ton a 1-1 draw.

The Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional was booed as he pre­pared to en­ter the match as a stop­page­time sub­sti­tute, but Mour­inho played it down.

“I had that feel­ing (Fel­laini would be booed),” he said.

“I ac­cept it be­cause from the fans you have to ac­cept ev­ery­thing, and es­pe­cially fans that are giv­ing so much to us with­out get­ting so much from us.

“The only things they are get­ting from us are hon­esty, pro­fes­sion­al­ism, ded­i­ca­tion, but they are not get­ting the re­sults they ex­pect from us.

“They are so sup­port­ive of us. They can also be a bit crit­i­cal. They have in their mind the mis­take that Marouane did at Ever­ton, and no more than that.

“He’s a player and a per­son I like and the per­son is even more im­por­tant than the player. So he will have al­ways my pro­tec­tion and my trust.”

Mkhi­taryan struck after An­der Her­rera in­ter­cepted a Harry Kane pass and set up the Ar­me­nian, who raced through and pow­ered past Spurs goal­keeper Hugo Lloris.

Mkhi­taryan was stretchered off in the 84 th minute after hurt­ing his left an­kle when tack­led by Danny Rose.

How­ever, Mour­inho played down the in­jury, say­ing the 27-year-old would be out for “a max­i­mum of two weeks”.

United re­mains sixth, 13 points be­low leader Chelsea and six points off a Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion spot, but Mour­inho is hope­ful his team can reel in the clubs above it.

“We still have our ambi- tions this year and ob­vi­ously to win this match puts us in a po­si­tion where we can feel them (the teams above),” he said.

“We can be in touch with fifth, with fourth. We can feel them with so many matches to go, so we can say this re­sult was very im­por­tant for that.

“We were six points from Tot­ten­ham. We lose to­day and six goes to nine. And nine is more dif­fi­cult than three. So the re­sult was im­por­tant.”

Po­chet­tino pos­i­tive

Kane lost pos­ses­sion in the build-up to Mkhi­taryan’s goal as Spurs tried to play out from de­fense.

Cen­ter­backs Toby Alder­weireld and Jan Ver­tonghen moved to­wards the touch­lines to pro­vide pass­ing op­tions, which left Her­rera with a gap­ing boule­vard to pick out Mkhi­taryan.

How­ever, Spurs boss Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino did not crit­i­cize his de­fend­ers.

“That is how we want to play,” he said. “We built a per­fect ac­tion from the back. When that sit­u­a­tion hap­pens, it’s foot­ball and we need to be clever enough to try to re­act.

“Our of­fen­sive play­ers can make a mis­take. We need to un­der­stand that they need to take a risk. Then we have a lack of re­ac­tion in that sit­u­a­tion when we lose the ball and we al­low them to score.

“We try to play un­der our phi­los­o­phy and we try to cre­ate a chance.”

Ten points be­low Chelsea, Tot­ten­ham’s hopes of repli­cat­ing last sea­son’s ti­tle chal­lenge are fad­ing, but Po­chet­tino says Spurs have plenty of time to claw back the deficit.

“The con­cern is not too much,” said the Ar­gen­tine, who said mid­fielder Mousa Dem­bele would un­dergo tests after tak­ing a kick to the foot.

“The Pre­mier League is tough. Chelsea started the sea­son very bad and for dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances they changed the sys­tem — and look how they are now.

“There is too much time to re­cover and re­duce the gap.

“We are in a good po­si­tion and it is a long way to the end of the sea­son.”

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