José Mourinho admitted some of his players are unable to cope with the pressure of playing for Manchester United at the moment and also stressed how they need to learn from their defensive mistakes after his side slumped to a third successive defeat on an afternoon that ended with the Portuguese once again criticising the match officials.
After losing against Manchester City and Feyenoord, United were beaten 3-1 at Watford, leaving Mourinho’s side six points behind Pep Guardiola’s team after only five matches.
Mourinho was unhappy that Watford’s first goal was allowed to stand, with Miguel Britos appearing to foul Anthony Martial in the lead-up to Etienne Capoue scoring, yet the United manager also accepted that his players were poor in the first half and at fault for Watford’s second goal.
Marcus Rashford had equalised for United in the second half but Juan Camilo Zúñiga scored only 53 seconds after coming off the bench to restore Watford’s lead.
Troy Deeney then converted an injury-time penalty to seal Watford’s first win over United since 1986.
Reflecting on the way United’s fortunes have changed since winning their first four games under him, Mourinho claimed he always realised there were issues to address, in particular in defence, where he suggested there was a mental as well as a tactical problem with the way his players are reluctant to press.
“I was completely aware that we were not the perfect team, that we had lots of players who are not end products and can make their own mistakes,” Mourinho said.
“My only doubt was the way they can cope with the negative moments that come sooner or later. I feel that some individuals probably feel too much pressure and that responsibility.
“But from a collective point of view, I only have good things to say about them. If you analyse our three defeats in the last week, we were always the best team in the second half. We didn’t start well today but then in the second half the players showed quality, intensity, desire, commitment and ambition. And we lost again in our best moment.
“I can split this into three factors: one is the referee’s crucial mistakes – that’s not in my control.
Against Man City you know what happened in minute 55 [when Claudio Bravo made the challenge on Wayne Rooney], today you know what happened for the first goal, against Feyenoord you know that the goal was in an offside position, so we were punished by these mistakes and I can’t do anything.
“The third thing is what is in my hands, which is the improvement of the team, the improvement of individuals, trying to stop with the defensive mistakes.
I knew that I had a task because, for example, the first Man City goal and this second goal today, you can find an incredible similarity, which is [Aleksandar] Kolarov has the ball in a difficult situation in the corner and my players, instead of going up to press, they decide to give space, and today for the second goal, [Nordin] Amrabat receives the ball and our left-back is 25 metres distance from him instead of being five.
But even at 25, you have to jump and go and press but, no, we wait.This is tactical but it is also a mental attitude. It’s something that you don’t go there and in a couple of weeks everything becomes perfect.
So we have to improve, no doubt, individually and collectively. And that’s my job because lady luck you don’t control and referees mistakes you don’t control.”
Martial clashed heads with Daryl Janmaat before Watford took the lead and appeared to be suffering from concussion when he was taken off, four minutes later, raising questions about why he had been allowed to continue in the first place.
Mourinho claimed he did not know the nature of the injury. “You are asking me things that I can’t tell you because I don’t know why he came off, if he was injured in his knee, in the ankle or his head,” he said.
“I promise you that I don’t know. I just know that in that moment he’s not in condition to carry on in the game.”
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