The Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, failed to mask his belief that an official’s error had deprived his side of a win at Manchester United on Sunday – declaring their four-point lead at the top of the Premier League table gave a little space “for our mistakes, or the referee’s mistakes”.
United secured a late equaliser after Branislav Ivanovic’s clip on the boot of an advancing Angel Di Maria won the free-kick which Chelsea failed to defend, with Ivanovic questionably dismissed for his second soft yellow card. Mourinho steadfastly insisted that he would not discuss referee Phil Dowd.
“You know I cannot speak, some can and some don’t; and one of the ones who cannot speak is me – because you know what happens to me when I do,” he said. But he did let out his frustration that Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo seemed to drag down Ivanovic and John Terry in the area and escape with the offences.
“I prefer not to speak about the second yellow card because if I do I have to start in the first half and go through many, many things that happened in the game,” Mourinho said.
“The penalty on Ivanovic, the accumulation of cards, the fouls he didn’t give to us, the throw-ins right in front of me and the fourth official and the linesman, that he gave in the other direction.”
The United manager Louis van Gaal – who revealed he will be without Phil Jones for an indeterminate time as the defender is suffering from shin splints – insisted that Ivanovic had deliberately impeded Di Maria.
“Ivanovic kicked him twice,” he said. “Not once but twice on the ankles. You can say maybe the first time is coincidence but the second time, no. He did it twice and when you do that it is unbelievable. It was a free-kick.”
Robin van Persie ripped off his shirt in unbridled relief at the equaliser, earning criticism from Van Gaal. “He did a stupid reaction after the goal,” the manager said. “You can be excited but you don’t have to pull your shirt off because then you have a yellow card. It is not so smart.”
United have one point fewer after nine games than David Moyes managed after the equivalent number of games last season.
But Van Gaal said that his side had shown an ability to “keep compact” when they went behind that Barcelona had not, when losing Saturday’s Clasico.
The Dutchman defended the defensive planning which left 5ft 8in Rafael Da Silva marking 6ft 2in Didier Drogba – a late replacement for Diego Costa, who did not travel to Old Trafford.
“You can be tall and not defend,” he said of the poorly conceded set-piece goal. “Rafael is one of the best defenders but lacks a lot of height. But I don’t have other players. We are always smaller than the opponent. I think in England they select only on the height and not quality.” He described Chelsea as the best team in Europe at “killing a game”.
Mourinho reflected: “In my opinion my feeling is that we had a good first half and a fantastic second half. To come here and play the way we did and not be happy with the point – because we are not – shows how good we are. [Drogba] was fantastic because he has only been playing for a week, and not playing for a month.”
Van Gaal said the late equaliser demonstrated that United had recovered self-belief. “The most pleasing thing is we are showing again we are believing in making a goal in spite of the result being bad.
“One-nil behind, it is fantastic the players are running until the 90th minute to equalise or win. I am a crazy coach.
“I also said to the players that you have to play your best match against the best teams but we didn’t do that. We still could have won. We missed an opportunity. That is a pity but I am very pleased that we are fighting until the end as a team.”
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