Team spirit second to none

West Ham United's Mark Noble (far left) and Manchester United's Paul Pogba attempting a late version of boxing's Golden Gloves in the EPL match at the London Stadium on Thursday.
West Ham United's Mark Noble (above) and Manchester United's Paul Pogba attempting a late version of boxing's Golden Gloves in the EPL match at the London Stadium on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho refuses to criticise his players after 0-0 draw at West Ham gives them 2nd spot

LONDON • David de Gea's first Golden Glove award is a fair reflection of how dour and defensive-minded Manchester United have become under Jose Mourinho.

The Spaniard took home the Premier League accolade, the first United goalkeeper to do so since Edwin van der Sar in the 2008-09 season, after his 18th clean sheet in the only bright spot on a night of precious few chances on Thursday.

Yet Mourinho refused to criticise his side despite another toothless attacking display as they sealed second place in the league with a 0-0 draw at West Ham.

Luke Shaw hit the post while Paul Pogba headed wide with United's best opening, but that was as good as it got at the London Stadium.

And a third blank in their last five league games for United means champions Manchester City can seal another record by winning the league by at least 19 points if they win at Southampton tomorrow.

Mourinho was, however, defiant at the final whistle after the ninth goalless stalemate of his United reign.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

We came second. I am not totally happy (because) that is not my nature but, since the moment we felt it was impossible to finish first, we had the target to finish second and it is done today.

JOSE MOURINHO, Man United manager, reacting to Thursday's 0-0 draw.

"We are the second-best team in the Premier League, a fantastic competition with lots of good teams, with six teams trying to finish first," said the Portuguese.

"We came second. I am not totally happy (because) that is not my nature but, since the moment we felt it was impossible to finish first, we had the target to finish second and it is done today.

"I am not critical of the performance at all. In the 80th minute, we know that a point was enough so we start thinking about that and we let the game go."

Mourinho did reserve praise for de Gea, calling his shutout award a "great team achievement".

"David has been terrific," Mourinho told club channel MUTV. "But the Golden Glove is about the team and not about somebody analysing the goalkeeper, and deciding this is the best goalkeeper of the Premier League.

"It is about clean sheets and they are about the team. Obviously, we are all very happy for David and it is a great team achievement."

In United's first game since former manager Alex Ferguson had to have emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage, the visiting fans showed their support to the 76-year-old Scot with persistent chants of "We all love Alex Ferguson".

And the Red Devils could have done with Ferguson's famed attacking nous from the sidelines, as Mourinho rang the changes in response to last Friday's 1-0 defeat at Brighton to no avail.

The 55-year-old dropped eight players who started that game, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial relegated to the bench despite the continued absence of injured top scorer Romelu Lukaku.

But the revamped line-up only served to toil against their limited opponents.

Not much else happened, except for a late flare-up between Pogba and Mark Noble, and United supporters had to content themselves with bellowing their adoration for Ferguson.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'Team spirit second to none'. Print Edition | Subscribe