Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United finally clicked in attack for the first time while on tour to beat Real Madrid 2-1 and the Portuguese tactician’s mood remarkably improved post the win over his former employers.
Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera both struck in the first-half after some slick passing, to relieve some pressure off their beleaguered manager and ensure that their pre-season trip the United States ended on a high.
“In relation to the match, the result doesn’t change anything. My professional players were amazing all pre-season because they know we play against good teams, against good opponents. We have just a few (senior) players here, lots of kids,” Mourinho told his post-match press conference on Wednesday morning.
Karim Benzema struck late in the first-half to reduce the deficit and while Los Blancos were dominant in the second period, United managed to hold on for a morale-boosting win.
“Our kids are really, really young because the team of the older ones, the Under-23s, was relegated – the team went to the second division and were relegated, so the quality was not good. So we prefer to bring kids – on the pitch today we had a couple of kids who were 16 years old.”
Mourinho’s reportedly an unpopular figure with his players after repeated public lashings, but on Wednesday, he was full of praise for most of his senior players.
“People like Herrera, (Eric) Bailly, (Matteo) Darmian, (Juan )Mata, all these guys, were phenomenal during the whole pre-season, playing almost every minute of every game.”
The Special One went on to assert that the result didn’t matter, rather the performance did as he added, “So the game today – if (we) win 2-1, we lose 2-1 or draw 2-2, it doesn’t change anything but of course I know the players and I know I can count on them. I know that these guys are amazing professionals and I know that they give everything for the club, for the prestige of the club. I know it would have not been nice to come here today and lose 5-1 or 6-1 against Real Madrid. They were phenomenal.”
Just as he asserted that United fans shouldn’t get feel jubilant after the win, he was quick to point out the opposite applied for Real Madrid, who were playing their first pre-season tie of the summer.
“I think this isn’t Real Madrid, in the same way this isn’t Manchester United. Real Madrid is the same as us – it’s players from different groups. Of course all of them are good players, this is not Real Madrid, this result means nothing to them, they have more time than us to prepare the season because La Liga they understand better than the Premier League the needs of the football players and La Liga will start a little bit later. It will let the coaches, the clubs and the players prepare better than us.
“I wish Julen (Lopetegui), the best luck, I’ve known him for 21-22 years. Good guy, good coach, I wish him the best.”
Mourinho again asserted that too much shouldn’t be read into the result, chiefly because of the limited personnel available to him.
“I didn’t learn anything (tactically). I know what Herrera is, I know what Mata is, I know what Sanchez is, I know what they are. I know that the kids are really young, I know the kids need time to grow up, I know my players gave everything.”
United end their pre-season tour of the States with two days, two wins and an embarrassing loss (1-4 at the hands of Liverpool), but with most of their senior players returning early from their holidays, there are plenty of positives still.
“We saw that in the last 15 minutes when Real Madrid brought on (Toni) Kroos, (Marco) Asensio and Isco. The boys tried everything, they gave everything, they know we have to try to fight for the best result but tactically it means nothing. I just tried with the players we have available to try to organise the best possible team to play against them.”
Apart from Sanchez, the standout player on the night from United’s perspective was Brazilian midfielder Fred and fans are hopeful that the South American makes in instant impact in England.
The English giants fly back to Manchester and will now play their final pre-season tie, a clash with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Sunday (2345 IST).
They open the 2018/19 Premier League season with a home fixture against Leicester City on August 10.