Football: Jose criticises defensive rivals

Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring Manchester United's first goal against Leicester. Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled their lead and the Armenian assisted Juan Mata for the third to pile the pressure on the beleaguered champions.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring Manchester United's first goal against Leicester. Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled their lead and the Armenian assisted Juan Mata for the third to pile the pressure on the beleaguered champions.PHOTO: REUTERS

He gets a kick out of comparing stylish United win with safety-first Chelsea, Spurs and Reds

LONDON • Jose Mourinho took a swipe at his old club Chelsea, as the Manchester United boss accused the runaway English Premier League leaders of lacking style.

His side cruised to a 3-0 victory at Leicester on Sunday and he was quick to highlight the difference between United's dominant display and what he perceives as the more prosaic efforts of Antonio Conte's men.

Frustrated by criticism of his team's cautious nature when he was in charge at Chelsea, Mourinho made it clear he is unimpressed with the way the Blues, currently nine points clear at the top, and also Tottenham and Liverpool, have been praised despite employing safety-first philosophies.

"My team is playing very well but for many years in my career, especially in this country, when my teams were ruthless and phenomenal defensively, I listened week after week to people saying that was not enough, despite winning the title three times," he said.

"This season it looks that being strong defensively and good on the counter attack is art. That is a big change in England.

"We are Manchester United, we want to play attacking football. This is the way the fans want us to play.

The Portuguese was in typically mischievous mood and even referenced his demise as Chelsea boss last season, which came following a defeat at Leicester.

THE OLD TRAFFORD WAY

We are Manchester United, we want to play attacking football. This is the way the fans want us to play.

JOSE MOURINHO, United manager, who endured much flak for his cautious tactics with Chelsea despite winning three EPL titles with them.

"The last time I was in this chair I was sacked a day later," he said with a smirk, before bringing an end to his post-match press conference at the King Power Stadium.

Mourinho's buoyant outlook was a contrast to his sulky demeanour following last week's draw with Hull and the key to his mood swing was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the United midfielder who tormented Leicester with his subtle passing and clever movement.

The Armenian scored United's opener and set up the third for Juan Mata to make it 3-0 and game over by the 49th minute. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had doubled the visitors' lead with his 15th league goal of the season.

Mourinho acknowledged the first goal had been crucial as it boosted his team's belief and shattered Leicester's already fragile morale.

"We missed the first big chance but scored the next one. That is the story of the game," he said.

"It makes all the difference. In the second half you are in emotional and tactical control.

"You kill the emotion of the opponent and the whole game looks different."

Having left Mkhitaryan out at the start of the season, Mourinho is now convinced the Armenian has adapted to the Premier League.

"If a player isn't playing sometimes it can seem the manager is disturbing them, but that is not true," he said.

"Sometimes the best way to protect the player is not to play him. Henrikh is one of these cases, you see the magic things he does."

Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel warned his team-mates that relegation is on the cards if they did not improve.

The Foxes' loss was their fourth in a row in the competition and last season's surprise champions sit just one point above the relegation zone.

Claudio Ranieri, the under-pressure manager, commented how "last season, everything was right for us; this season, everything is wrong", but he maintained that he had not lost the dressing room.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'Jose criticises defensive rivals'. Print Edition | Subscribe