Mourinho ire at 'fantasy' style

Manchester United's Paul Pogba receiving medical attention for an injury suffered during the 3-0 Champions League victory against Basel at Old Trafford on Tuesday. It was the Frenchman's first game as United captain.
Manchester United's Paul Pogba receiving medical attention for an injury suffered during the 3-0 Champions League victory against Basel at Old Trafford on Tuesday. It was the Frenchman's first game as United captain.PHOTO: REUTERS

United boss criticises 'PlayStation' approach from his side during 3-0 victory against Basel

LONDON • Jose Mourinho accused his Manchester United players of showboating on Tuesday as they returned to the Champions League with a 3-0 victory over Basel at Old Trafford.

Goals from Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford earned United a comfortable win but Mourinho was unhappy that his team "stopped playing seriously", instead opting for "fantasy football, PlayStation football" after taking a 2-0 lead early in the second half.

The Portuguese manager was also concerned by an injury to Paul Pogba, who limped off with a hamstring problem in the 19th minute and was on crutches when he left the stadium.

"I don't know (what the severity is)," Mourinho told MUTV. "I just know from experience it's a muscular injury. In my experience, muscular injury stops you from playing for a few weeks. It looks (like a hamstring injury) but I haven't spoken yet to the medical department."

United have midfield options for the weekend's Premier League clash with Everton, including Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, Fellaini and Nemanja Matic. But France will be hoping Pogba is fit for the crucial World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria on Oct 7.

The untimely end to Pogba's first match as United captain had the beneficial side-effect of bringing Fellaini into the fray.

So often derided for his perceived lack of coordination, the Belgian was United's best player, opening the scoring in the 35th minute with a bullet header from Ashley Young's right-wing cross.

INEXPLICABLE CHANGE

After 2-0 everything changed... we stopped playing seriously, stopped making the right decisions. We could have put ourselves in trouble.

JOSE MOURINHO, criticising his players.

After his international team-mate Lukaku had added a second, Fellaini turned provider late on, rolling the ball back from the byline on the right for Rashford to scuff home.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan drew angry reactions from his manager twice in the second half for conceding possession sloppily.

"After 2-0 everything changed," Mourinho said. "We stopped playing, we stopped thinking, we stopped playing seriously, stopped making the right decisions. We could have put ourselves in trouble.

"They didn't score and we got the third, but it was bad decisions, fantasy football, PlayStation football, tricks. I don't like it, flicks and tricks."

It was a night of one-sided results, with Barcelona and Bayern Munich recording 3-0 victories over Juventus and Anderlecht respectively, but Mourinho suggested that United were among "second level" teams fighting harder to reach the knockout stage.

"I think for Real Madrid and Barcelona and Bayern, the Champions League starts in February," he said. "Now it's just the warming-up for them and in February, when we English teams are trying to survive after the winter period, they are fresh and ready after this warm-up.

"I think we are in the second level and the second level is, 'Let's make the points to qualify for the knockout phase and if we do that let's enjoy playing against the big guys.' "

As for United's hopes of reaching the knockout stages for the second time since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013, Mourinho said: "It is three important points and, with our last match in the group coming at home (against CSKA Moscow on Dec 5), it gives us a chance to play here in case we need points to qualify. In between we have difficult matches (the next two away to CSKA and Benfica), so to start with three points is important."

Swiss champions Basel have now gone nine European games without victory, but coach Raphael Wicky was reluctant to criticise his players. "At the beginning we seemed a bit scared, particularly when we had the ball," he said. "But I never saw the team fall apart. There was commitment and hard work until the final whistle."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'Mourinho ire at 'fantasy' style'. Print Edition | Subscribe