Mourinho accepts Fellaini’s the fall guy
Belgian booed but Spurs win gives United fans something to cheer
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.”
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.”