As he spoke to the media, Mourinho had to explain why Liverpool were so much better than his side, with United completely overrun during the first 30 minutes of the Anfield encounter.
Explaining the differences between his United side and that at the disposal of Jurgen Klopp, Mourinho compared the physicality and intensity of Liverpool’s best players compared to his own.
Going a step further, he labelled certain players within his squad “injury-prone” having had to deal with a constant stream of defensive issues that has prevented him from sticking with a consistent line-up.
Here is Mourinho’s final press conference in full.
(How do you assess that performance?)
“The performance, the players, they gave everything and when the players give everything I’m never upset or frustrated with them. I have a good feeling towards them, they play in relation to their qualities in the same way that the opposition (Liverpool) played towards their qualities. They are fast, they are intense, they are aggressive, they are physical, they are objective and they play with the ball 200mph with the ball and without the ball. I am still tired just looking at (Andy) Robinson, he makes I think 100m sprints per minute, it’s absolutely incredible and these are qualities.
“So when the game was really intense in the first 20-25 minutes it was difficult for us to cope with it. In the second half when the game slowed down, when we compacted better and had more time to have the ball and to play we were in a good position in the game, at 1-1 with 20 minutes to go and with some semi-dangerous approaches in the box.
“It’s hard to lose in the moment where the game was dying and when Van Dijk, Fabinho, Lovren were coming with the ball, they didn’t find space, they had to shoot from 30m – shots that were easy to David (De Gea), shots to the corner flag and it is exactly in that moment where we were completely in control where we lose the game, two shots that David saves that are easy shots, but because of the rebounds they were goals.
“I would say Liverpool deserved the victory but it’s hard for my players to work hard like they did and lose exactly in the moment where we didn’t believe we’d lose. If you tell me in the first 20 minutes we are going to lose I would say ‘yes it looks so’ but in the moment we lost the game it is exactly in the moment where we don’t look like we’re going to lose.”
(Difficult day for Lukaku?)
“Sorry? I don’t think he had a bad game at all. I think he fought really had, he had good movement for the goal. He gave them more problems than he gave last season when we came here for the 0-0 draw. He was lively, he had good movement, interactions – sometimes his first touch is not the best but lots of balls today with the first touch didn’t happen – he had something. I think he fought hard, he’s improving, he played positively the last game against Fulham and today a very difficult match to play. I think he was positive.
(What gives you the belief you can still reach the top four?)
“What gives me the belief is that we are going to make (win) a lot more points in the second half of the season than we did in the first part. We played away – I know that we lost some other matches – but we played away at Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City, probably the three best teams apart from Tottenham. We played them away, and we have the possibility to make more points in the second half of the season than we did the first part.
(How would you describe the qualities this Manchester United side?)
“First of all we have lots of problems related with physicality, we have lots of players that I could consider injury-prone because some of our players are always injured – it’s not with me, it was before me. If you look to the stats under Mr Van Gaal and before Mr Van Gaal with David – if you look through that period that are permanently injured. When you are permanently injured, physicality is very difficult to get. Then there are qualities that a player has or doesn’t have. You cannot improve, you cannot make them have… I give you an example: Robertson, Mane, Salah, Wijnaldum, Keita, Fabinho, they are physical players and on top of that they are good players technically. I also have lots of good players technically but we don’t have many players with that intensity, with that physicality, so when the game has high levels of intensity it is hard for us. Our first 20 minutes was difficult for us. When we had the ball, when the tension went down and the intensity went down, it was easier for us to win the game, we managed to have the ball and to bring the game into – I would say – our side in that now we are playing the way we can.
These are our qualities and I think you like to say sometimes that it’s the manager’s voice but you can compare my Porto team to Liverpool, you can compare (them) because the qualities of the players are there. It was my best team in defensive transition, we lose the ball, we bite, we bite like mad dogs and recover the ball in seconds. In Real Madrid I had my best team in direct counter attack because I had young Di Maria, young Ronaldo, young Higuian and young Benzema. We killed everybody in offensive transition. At Inter, I had my best team in a defensive low block where people like Materazzi, Samuel, Lucio, Cordoba, in a low block you can be there five hours and you don’t concede a goal. Players make teams play in a certain way.
(Have you not done enough to change the squad?)
“I don’t think a football team is just a squad. It’s much more than the squad, and I repeat I’m really, really happy with the players that I had on the pitch, with their attitude, with their effort, I’m more than happy. Because I’m happy with them I assume the responsibilities of the defeat and I want them to be hidden behind me. They gave absolutely everything, honest people who gave absolutely everything, Eric Bailly knows that he plays one minute before the game. Lindelof trained one day to play, Dalot played one day to play, Darmian played one day to play, Ashley Young played with a sore ankle and I could go on and on and on. I’m happy with the players attitude and the commitment, I feel really sorry for them because their effort doesn’t deserve defeat the way we did. If you concede two goals in the first 20 minutes I would say ‘ok the best team just killed us in the first 20 minutes’. To lose the way we did, I feel sorry for the boys.
(Why not play Pogba?)
“No. Because I’m happy with Matic, Lingard and Herrera.”
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