No excuses left for Red Devils

Optimistic Mourinho challenges team to end four-game winless streak by beating Fulham

LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has said that there are "no excuses" and that his team must now pick up all three points following a four-game winless streak in the Premier League.

United have dropped to eighth in the standings after that poor run, 18 points behind leaders and their bitter rivals Manchester City.

They lost 3-1 to City last month before draws with Crystal Palace, Southampton and Arsenal.

Ahead of today's home match against bottom club Fulham, the Portuguese said at a press conference yesterday: "We need points, no excuses. I sat here a few weeks ago speaking about the December month and (having) no defeats.

"That is a reality: good fights and good spirit but just one Champions League win against Young Boys and three draws (since the Nov 24 draw against Crystal Palace)."

He lamented after the 2-2 draw against Southampton last Saturday that his side lacked "mad dogs" who are willing to fight for the team.

But he was happier with United's display against Arsenal on Wednesday after they twice battled back to earn a 2-2 result and hopes to carry on that momentum today.

"There are special players with special characteristics," Mourinho said, having found his "mad dogs".

"(Ander) Herrera, (Marcus) Rashford - they are the kind of players that even if their game was not phenomenal, that intensity, that desire, that passion and that sacrifice is always present.

"But I prefer to say that the team as a team had that mentality.

"We have to try to transport that to this game. I know that it is not easy. But I want to be positive and think we are going to win."

United must first put their defensive woes behind them.

After Arsenal's two goals in midweek, Mourinho's men have now conceded 25 goals in their 15 Premier League games to date.

Alarmingly, only the league's bottom five teams have a worse defensive record and United have managed to record only two clean sheets all season.

And in the two complete seasons under Mourinho's management, United conceded just 29 goals in 2016-17 and 28 goals last season.

Fulham, having scored just 15 league goals in as many games this season, should offer United's defence a sightly easier challenge, although the arrival of Claudio Ranieri may have a galvanising effect.

The Italian revealed on Thursday that Mourinho was the first manager to welcome him back to the Premier League when he was appointed Fulham boss last month.

The pair will be reunited for the first time since Ranieri was sacked by Leicester in February last year.

It was after that dismissal, just nine months after leading the Foxes to the title, that Mourinho wore the Italian's initials in a show of solidarity with a fellow manager and Ranieri has revealed they have remained in regular contact.

"He was the first who sent me a message to say 'welcome back'. He is a very friendly friend," the 67-year-old said.

"He told me, 'Welcome back, all the best'. We speak about everything. I have known him for a long time. He's a great man, coach, manager."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MAN UNITED V FULHAM

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2018, with the headline 'No excuses left for Red Devils'. Print Edition | Subscribe