October will be Red Devils' acid test

LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho says it is too early to talk about a challenge for the Premier League title, despite watching his side win their fifth match out of six.

United, who have not won the title since Alex Ferguson was at the helm in 2013, are second in the table, level with Manchester City on 16 points, but with an inferior goal difference.

Mourinho conceded his team have started better than last season but sees next month, when they face Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, as more significant.

"I know that last season (by) this fixture, I think we would have, maybe, (four) points less than we have this season," he said. "So we are better this season than last.

"But this is nothing. It's just a start. A difficult period with an accumulation of matches, that comes in October. I really think that six teams are going to fight for the title."

City's 5-0 demolition of Crystal Palace on Saturday took them clear of United at the top, but the hard-fought 1-0 win at Southampton showed off United's battling qualities instead of the attacking prowess they have demonstrated in recent weeks.

  • +4

  • Points Manchester United are better off than last season after six matches. They were in sixth place with 12 points.

Mourinho, who was sent off in stoppage time, said the warm weather on England's south coast had taken its toll on his players.

"The last time we had this was in Los Angeles and then in Macedonia, and I think they felt (it). I saw some players not sharp," said the Portuguese.

"Great spirit and always trying, but not the same sharpness. So if your opponent is coming with everything against you, let's do it for 10 or 15 minutes and stay solid."

He said he was baffled by his red card, which appeared to follow a collision with the fourth official and suggestions that he encroached on the field of play as Southampton pressed late on.

"I don't know," he said. "Craig (Pawson, the referee) told me to leave, and I left."

Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino was pleased by his team's performance despite a ninth blank at St Mary's in 10 home games.

"To play with this spirit and with this football, we will win more games than we lose and we have to continue in this way," he said.

"They (United) realised that we were playing well and they defended. That is football too and you cannot always play really, really well."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'October will be Red Devils' acid test'. Print Edition | Subscribe