Back in May, Jose Mourinho was sitting in the same chair as on Sunday evening, in the same darkened room under the Amex, after the same result, a chastening defeat by Brighton. Back then he went on the attack, indirectly tearing into the performances of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in what was, even by Mourinho’s standards, a breathtaking tirade.
“Maybe now you will not ask me why A, B and C do not play so much,” Mourinho said. “People always ask: ‘Why always Lukaku?’ Well, now they know why always Lukaku, and why always this player and why always that player. We are probably not as good as people think we are individually.”
This time he changed tack and turned on the media, saying “don’t expect me to speak with you about [the game]” after an insipid United display ended in a 3-2 defeat.
Brighton played with poise and purpose scoring three first-half goals via Glenn Murray, Shane Duffy and Pascal Gross to lead 3-1 at the break, and although the visitors pinned their opponents back in the second half, they created few chances and only mustered a late goal from the penalty spot.
Mourinho blamed the result on individual errors, but when asked to explain the team’s attacking deficiencies he responded: “If I was in your position [the media], I think this game today would give me quite a lot of material to write about. But don’t expect me to speak with you about it.
“Because you and your colleagues were really critical me when in previous seasons I was probably too honest and too open in my analysing and I was too honest and too open in analysing about players’ performances. So don’t ask me to do what you criticised me so much for. Expect from me to be really happy to say after Leicester, A,B,C, D, an amazing performance, this and that. Don’t expect me to go in the other direction.”
Mourinho’s tone was firm but he spoke quietly and wearily, like a man halfway along a journey for which he has long forgotten the destination. This felt like more than just three lost points but a significant nadir in Mourinho’s tenure at the club, a performance lacking attacking cohesion or defensive steel on a day when the reigning champions crushed Huddersfield 6-1.
“Mistakes,” was the most Mourinho was willing to offer by way of a deconstruction. “We made mistakes and we were punished by our mistakes. Sometimes you make mistakes and are not punished, sometimes the opponent doesn’t take advantage of your gifts, sometimes they do. This time was almost three out of three.
“They were critical with the gifts that we gave them and because of that I think they deserve (the win).”
At one moment in the second half Mourinho bellowed at his stand-in captain, Paul Pogba, asking him to play quicker, while the midfielder made an exasperated gesture towards the options, or lack of options, ahead of him. Afterwards Pogba agreed with Mourinho’s assessment of mistakes and admitted his “attitude” had not been right.
“We lost and the attitude that we had today was that we deserved to win,” Pogba said afterwards. “The attitude that we had was not like we wanted to beat them. They had more anger than us and that showed on the pitch. I put myself first. My attitude wasn’t right enough. We’ll keep trying and keep pushing and obviously it’s a lesson for us. We made mistakes we shouldn’t make. The attitude has to be right and we missed that today.”
For all the focus on United’s errors, Chris Hughton was keen to stress the impressive showing from Brighton, but warned after such a vast improvement from their opening defeat to Watford that his side could not afford to raise their game only on the big occasions.
“What we’ve got to do is make sure it’s not just a home game against Manchester United that makes you do it,” said Hughton. “I’ve been there before, it’s not so difficult to raise your game for these type of games. The tempo was very good, and I must admit, irrespective of the result, I would have been really delighted with the performance.
“I would like to think that most people watching the game would look at it and say we were good, as a pose to United being poor.”
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