Football: Smug Mourinho hits back

United's Antonio Valencia about to get in a crunching tackle on Liverpool's Roberto Firmino. The Reds enjoyed the lion's share of play on Monday but lacked patience.
United's Antonio Valencia about to get in a crunching tackle on Liverpool's Roberto Firmino. The Reds enjoyed the lion's share of play on Monday but lacked patience.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He criticises media for swooning over Reds, says draw exposed Liverpool's shortcomings

LIVERPOOL • Jose Mourinho could not help sounding self-satisfied about denting the hype surrounding Liverpool when he said his Manchester United team had shown that Jurgen Klopp's high-flyers were not "the last wonder of the world" on Monday.

Yet after a 0-0 draw in the Premier League at Anfield, low on quality and high on yawns, the satisfied Special One might just as well have reflected on the lack of stardust sprinkled by his own expensive wonders, who offered just one shot on target in a game to forget.

United held Klopp's attractive side with relative comfort, thanks to the tactical excellence of his stifling set-up and a couple of blinding saves from David de Gea.

Their two mega-signings of the close season, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, combined for their best moment, only for the Swede's close-range header from the Frenchman's cross to bumble harmlessly across goal.

That summed up United's blunt edge but Mourinho, though, was adamant.

"We controlled the game not just tactically but the emotion of the game. That was probably the quietest Anfield I had experienced. I think we had a positive performance," he said.

  • 1st nail in title coffin?

  • It may be still early in the season to draw any conclusions but the 0-0 result at Anfield has left Jose Mourinho with a big task if he is to win the title.

    No Premier League team have gone from seventh place after eight games to champions.

    Premier League champions in their lowest position after eight games:

    • 2008-09: Man United 6th

    • 2015-16: Leicester 5th

    • 1992-93: United 4th

    • 1996-97: United 4th

    • 2010-11: United 4th

    • 2013-14: United 4th

The Portuguese reckoned the British media had been swooning over Liverpool's form and also declared: "They are not the last wonder of the world like you like to say they are. People expected us to come here and be really in trouble, which we were not."

Yet United did not create much trouble for Klopp's side either and, still lying seventh in the league with plenty of enterprising quality above them, they will be expected to deliver something more convincing in their two other big dates this week.

They host Fenerbahce in the Europa League tomorrow before Mourinho has his fascinating return on Sunday to the Chelsea den where he was once worshipped.

Klopp, having to settle for his part for only the second goal-less draw between the sides in the Premier League annals, conceded that Mourinho had been a master of the defensive arts again.

"That kind of defence is difficult to play. The man-marking is really difficult, they are stronger than us," he said. "I am not frustrated but I am not happy with the performance. No one will show this game in 10 or 20 years but we could have played better."

The German added that Liverpool lacked patience in possession and made life difficult for themselves.

"We lost patience far too early and our passing game was not good. We had 65 per cent possession but we have to do better," he said.

United's total of 35 per cent possession was the club's lowest in the Premier League since Opta began compiling statistics in 2003, but Mourinho disputed the data, saying: "My guy did it - 42 (per cent), not 35."

He then turned that into an issue for Liverpool rather than his own team, noting: "Last season United won here when Liverpool had 14 shots on target and United had one.

"How many shots on target did Liverpool have on target today? Two. Two shots on target with 65 per cent of possession, you have to be critical of Liverpool. It is their problem, not our problem."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN,

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

35% The lowest possession Manchester United have had in a Premier League game.

2 Only the second Premier League match ever between the two sides that has ended 0-0. The first time was in September 2005.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Smug Mourinho hits back'. Print Edition | Subscribe