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JOSE MOURINHO says Manchester United’s humiliation at Watford underlines how much work needs to be done to transform his spluttering side into title contenders.
Mourinho’s men crashed to their third successive defeat on Sunday as Watford’s shock 3-1 victory condemned United and their manager to an historically bad day.
It was the first time United had lost to Watford in 30 years and the first occasion Mourinho had been beaten in three consecutive matches since 2002 when he was in charge at Porto.
After defeats against bitter rivals Manchester City in the Premier League and then Feyenoord in the Europa League, all talk of a United renaissance has evaporated within the space of eight days.
But Mourinho insists he was already aware of United’s flaws during the three-match winning run that started his Old Trafford reign.
Specifically, he is concerned about the fragile way his players respond to adversity and the defence’s habit of making careless mistakes when they don’t adhere to his instructions.
“We started the season very well with the Community Shield and three victories in a row in the Premier League, the best start that a new manager has had at Manchester United I think,” Mourinho said.
“But was I thinking that my team was ready, perfect, unbeatable? Not at all.
“I was completely aware that we were not perfect, with lots of players who are not end products and can make their own mistakes.
“My doubt was how they could cope when the negative moment arrived. Some individuals feel the pressure too much.
“I know what is in my hands, the improvement of the team and individuals. I have to try to stop defensive mistakes.
“I knew I had a task. It is tactical but also mental. We have to improve no doubt.”
After falling behind to Etienne Capoue’s first half opener, United equalised through Marcus Rashford and looked the more likely winners until defensive errors allowed Juan Camilo Zuniga to fire Watford ahead in the 83rd minute.
Troy Deeney’s stoppage-time penalty rubbed salted into United’s wounds, but it was United leftback Luke Shaw’s failure to stop Watford’s second that most frustrated Mourinho.
“Their second goal is a mistake that goes against our plan and our training, because our intention was for their wing-backs to be pressed and not let them progress,” he said.
“And what happened was the guy gets the ball 20-25m away from our box and instead of being pressed, we give him the space to progress. (Nordin) Amrabat receives the ball and our leftback (Shaw) is 25m from him instead of five.
“But even at 25 you have to jump and go and press, but no, we wait. It’s something that doesn’t become perfect in a couple of weeks. So we have to improve, no doubt, individually and collectively.”
Mourinho was unable to confirm if French winger Anthony Martial suffered a concussion in a first half collision with Watford’s Daryl Janmaat.
Martial eventually came off holding his head after losing possession just before Watford’s first half and Mourinho criticised referee Michael Oliver for failing to give a freekick.
“You don’t ask me about that if you think that nothing happened,” Mourinho said.
“The referee’s crucial mistakes are not in my control, there is nothing I can do about that.”
Watford boss Walter Mazzarri could have been forgiven for revelling in Mourinho’s problems after the pair clashed when they were managers in Serie A.
But the Italian was happier that the impressive performance proved his methods can work in the Premier League.
“I’m pleased for my players. Most of all I’m happy because this will give us confidence. It means my work is having an impact,” he said.
“We were better than them and deserved the points. We prepared the game very well. We studied them all week.” – AFP
Spurs striker Harry Kane (right) shoots past Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (centre) to score the only goal of yesterday’s English Premier League match at White Hart Lane.