United effort in improved defence

Mourinho believes cohesive team rather than individuals key to their stronger backline

LONDON • Jose Mourinho has said Manchester United are tackling their defensive problems better because of a concerted team effort rather than Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling being selected as the centre-back pairing in their run of three successive victories.

The manager was disappointed not to recruit a senior player in the position during the summer transfer window as he believed this was required to bolster his rearguard.

United, though, have conceded only once during the winning sequence after letting in six goals in the two defeats by Brighton and Tottenham previously.

Asked at his pre-match conference ahead of today's Premier League home game against Wolverhampton Wanderers if this was down to the Lindelof-Smalling partnership, Mourinho said: "No, I think the team as a team is resolving the defensive problems better than before.

"The team is more compact, more solid; the spirit, the cooperation, the empathy, the communication - all of that improves in the team and good results bring confidence.

"And I think we are improving as a team. I don't want to say our improvement has the name of Chris or Victor; the team is playing better and they are part of the team that plays these matches."

The improvement in defence was also partly due to Mourinho fielding Marouane Fellaini in a holding midfield position in the Premier League victories over Burnley and Watford to good effect, as the Belgian provided sufficient cover to the two centre-backs.

Mourinho also indicated yesterday that he will ration £19 million (S$34.1 million) summer signing Diogo Dalot's United appearances despite an impressive midweek debut in the Champions League 3-0 victory over Swiss side Young Boys.

The 19-year-old Portuguese right-back's debut was delayed while he recovered from knee surgery but the former Porto player looked assured on Wednesday.

Despite that strong display, the United manager said he would leave the teenager out of his line-up to face Wolves today.

Dalot will instead be selected for Tuesday's League Cup third-round home tie against Derby, in which Mourinho will face his former player Frank Lampard, who spent 13 years at Chelsea and is now manager of the Championship side.

He explained that Dalot needs time to adjust to life at United.

"I want him in this process of adaptation to play totally fresh, so he's not playing tomorrow, he plays Tuesday again," said Mourinho.

"To play for Manchester United is difficult enough for a kid of 19 years old and after an important surgery. He doesn't need to face more difficulty. But he showed on Wednesday he's a very good player."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline 'United effort in improved defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe