Jose’s re­lief as United nick win at the death

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - ED AARONS

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.

Photo: John Si­b­ley

Manch­ester United’s Mar­cus Rash­ford scores their last-gasp win­ner against Bournemouth at the Vi­tal­ity Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

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