Jose’s relief as United nick win at the death
JOSE MOURINHO admitted Manchester United’s first-half performance was a “disaster” but praised his side’s fighting spirit after they came from behind to inflict Bournemouth’s first home defeat of the season thanks to substitute Marcus Rashford’s late winner.
After a calamitous opening spell from United that saw Ryan Fraser spurn a great opportunity in the fourth minute, the hosts took a deserved lead through Callum Wilson and had opportunities to put the game to bed before Anthony Martial’s equaliser against the run of play.
An improved performance after the introduction of Rashford and Ander Herrera from the bench eventually saw the England striker poke home in stoppage time, although Mourinho acknowledged that their start to the match had been unacceptable.
“At half-time, I thought I was the luckiest manager in the Premier League, because to be 1-1 in a half when it should be like 5 or 6-2, we were really lucky,” he said. “We were really poor, defensively awful. And I do not just look to my defenders; as a team we did not start pressing up. People watching this game will not believe how hard we worked this week. The first half was a disaster.”
Mourinho pointed to the incident involving Chris Smalling — that allowed Fraser his early chance only for David De Gea to save his effort — as the trigger for United’s demise, claiming that the England defender’s mistake had “triggered instability in the team”.
He added: “It looked like we don’t work tactically during the week, which obviously is the worst feeling for me because we work so much that I expect my team to be really good. I feel frustrated with that.
“The good thing is that the team has this face of a fantastic character and the heart that any result [is possible], the game is not over. In the second half, I could understand some of the frustration because we produced some incredible chances and we didn’t score. But then we managed to score in [stoppage] time and we got the points we lost against Chelsea.”
The victory lifts United level on points with Bournemouth but they still trail Eddie Howe’s side on goal difference. Mourinho admitted that he had commiserated with his opposite number at the final whistle after an exciting game and Howe was full of praise for his players despite their disappointment at losing the game so late in the day.
“It’s a tough one for us. There was a lot of intensity to our play and we created a number of chances,” he said. “The disappointment at half-time was that we weren’t winning but it was one of the best first-half performances we’ve seen since we were promoted to the Premier League.
“We knew it would be a different game in the second half and full credit to them for sticking in the game. But from our perspective we’re disappointed. There was always the feeling that there was another goal in the game and unfortunately it wasn’t for us.”
In the absence of Romelu Lukaku, who picked up an injury in training on Friday, Mourinho handed Alexis Sánchez his first Premier League start since the draw against Wolves six weeks ago and left Rashford on the bench. Yet if the United manager was hoping that making only one change from the side that defeated Everton last week would result in a quick start he was to be sorely disappointed.
The early lapse of concentration from Smalling was the precursor of things to come in a calamitous opening spell for the visitors that saw them fall behind.
Three times in a 60-second spell, Bournemouth carved open United’s defence before finally making the breakthrough when Wilson tapped home a cross from Junior Stanislas after a brilliant reverse pass from Lewis Cook. The former Coventry striker now has 50 goals for Bournemouth since moving to the south coast in 2014 and was a constant threat throughout the first half, combining well with David Brooks — a boyhood United fan — and the impressive Stanislas, who was making his first league start of the season after injury.
By contrast, United looked lethargic in attack until the midway point of the half when Sánchez started to make his presence felt. It was the Chile international’s persistence that created the equaliser as he won the ball in the centre circle before linking up with Ashley Young on the right to lay the ball on a plate for Martial.
The half-time switches seemed to have the desired effect as United started to dominate possession, although they endured some nervy moments before stealing the win.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford scores their last-gasp winner against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium yesterday.