Football: Jose Mourinho defends goal-shy striker Romelu Lukaku

Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho reacts as he leaves the pitch during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Nov 25, 2017.
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho reacts as he leaves the pitch during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Nov 25, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Jose Mourinho made a rare admission of error that he fielded too many attackers, as Manchester United scrapped to a 1-0 win over Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.

The manager made seven changes, as only Chris Smalling, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku survived from Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League defeat by Basel.

Chris Hughton retained 10 of the Brighton XI that drew 2-2 with Stoke on Monday, Solly March coming in for Jose Izquierdo.

United's front line at Old Trafford on Saturday featured Marcus Rashford and Martial, only the second time they have started together in the league this term, following the 4-1 win over Newcastle.

This prompted the rare occurrence of the Portuguese manager admitting a mistake with the 4-2-3-1 .

"I wouldn't be surprised if the pundits said we played with too many attackers," Mourinho said of the ninth league victory of the campaign that kept them second.

"But if they say that, I would say they were right. Sometimes you play with too many and you lose control of the game.

"We had a few problems because Pogba and (Nemanja) Matic were isolated in the midfield.

"It is a good risk and against Newcastle, it was good because (while) we were not very solid defensively we were strong in creating.

"But today our creation was poor. They were not successful one against one. Marcus did not have a happy match at all."

He also praised Brighton, telling the BBC: "I want to be honest and give them (Brighton) what they deserve, for me probably they deserve more than the result they got.

"I think we were more spirit and heart than quality."

It took a Lewis Dunk own goal in the 66th minute to settle the contest after wing-back Ashley Young let fly from the edge of the box and the ricochet left goalkeeper Mathew Ryan rooted to the spot.

There was a bit of controversy, with Brighton arguing the corner leading up to the goal should not have been awarded, while Romelu Lukaku appeared to have fouled a defender in the build-up.

Mourinho gave credit to his team, saying: "We had amazing chances a couple of days ago and we couldn't score, today we did it."

He also revealed that Micheal Carrick, who is recovering from a heart operation, will be offered a coaching role under him after the 36-year-old midfielder retires from playing.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2017, with the headline 'I played too many attackers, says Mourinho'. Print Edition | Subscribe