Mourinho not shaken by draw

Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku scoring their second goal in the 2-2 Premier League draw against Stoke City on Saturday. In the 81st minute, however, the Belgian squandered a chance to seal a win against the Potters.
Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku scoring their second goal in the 2-2 Premier League draw against Stoke City on Saturday. In the 81st minute, however, the Belgian squandered a chance to seal a win against the Potters.PHOTO: REUTERS

United boss says his confidence in his players is not dented, plays down handshake dispute

LONDON • If the real test of a potentially title-winning team is whether they can do it on a windy evening at Stoke City, then Manchester United need not make space in their trophy cabinet just yet.

They could have won, they probably should have, but in the end, they drew 2-2 on Saturday.

United went behind, took the lead and finally were pulled back by a Stoke side who surrendered territory but never the initiative.

Nevertheless, United manager Jose Mourinho claimed his confidence in his side remains intact despite their failure to hold the lead given to them by goals from Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored twice for Stoke, becoming the first player to score against United in four games this season and making Stoke the first side to deny them maximum points.

Still, Mourinho declared himself pleased with United's position on top of the table, ahead of Manchester City on goal difference.

"It's easy to feel it that some of the players were not with the sharpness and intensity and with the decision-making," he said.

"I know after national teams (international matches) there are injuries or fatigue or lack of concentration, and we had a little bit of everything. So I'm not disappointed with the players, I'm not critical with it, it's just a natural consequence.

"Four matches, 10 points, top of the league, we are okay.

"A draw was a fair result. One team tried to win, one team tried to get the point but they fought hard to get that point. They defended well, they counter-attacked and in set-pieces, they are powerful."

That was disingenuous: Stoke carried a real threat.

When Mourinho's comments were put to Mark Hughes, Stoke's manager said: "What do you think? We were up against the best side in the Premier League judging by what they have shown so far. We didn't allow them as much space and everything I asked the guys to do, they fulfilled."

Mourinho refused to criticise defender Phil Jones for giving Choupo-Moting a free header for Stoke's equaliser, and played down a spat with Hughes.

The former Man United striker pushed Mourinho when he entered the Stoke technical area and Mourinho refused to shake his opposite number's hand at the final whistle because he believed he was told to "f*** off" by the Welshman.

Mourinho also believed Hughes had told the referee, Neil Swarbrick, to send him to the stands for encroaching into the Stoke technical area.

This followed an incident in which Hughes seemed to be upset at a United foul from which his team were awarded a free kick.

Asked about the handshake, Hughes said: "I pushed him because he was in my technical area. Maybe that's why he didn't want to shake my hand. Maybe it's because it could be viewed as a negative result for him. Coming to Stoke City when everybody expected them to beat us is a negative."

Mourinho was irritated when asked about the incident. "I don't speak about stupid things," he told the BBC.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'Mourinho not shaken by draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe