Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho claims his players still play for him after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool.
Two second-half goals from substitute Xherdan Shaqiri settled the contest at Anfield as United slumped to their worst ever start to a Premier League season.
Speaking after the defeat, Mourinho maintained that he still had the backing of the United players contrary to speculation to the contrary.
“What is that?” he responded to questions over their loyalty. “Play for me? Are you calling the players dishonest?
“You are asking me if they are dishonest. I believe they are honest and you believe they are dishonest. A football player has to give (their) all, every day, maximum every day, every match, every minute. It doesn’t matter the manager or anything else.
“The club that pays him, the fans that are 24 hours per day in love with their own club, it’s a respect for the club and for the fans. If the players don’t give their maximum, you are calling them dishonest.
“I don’t call them dishonest at all. The players that were on the pitch today, they gave everything.”
It was Mourinho’s first loss in this part of Merseyside since 2007, but the Portuguese appeared unsurprised by the outcome, conceding that Liverpool are a superior force with loftier objectives this season.
“Liverpool are the better team. We cannot compare their intensity, we cannot compare their physicality, and based on their intensity and physicality, then the technical qualities come up, and they are a better team than us.
“But in spite of that, we were in the game until we concede the third in a moment where the most obvious result was a draw. We had as many chances as them in the last 15 minutes.
“They showed they have the strongest team, but it’s hard to concede the goals we conceded in a moment, and it’s even harder the way the goals happened.
“I think our difficult period in the game was the first 20 minutes. We couldn’t cope with their fantastic intensity, speed and pressing. After that, we were calm in the game.
“We were controlled but David (de Gea) is saying in the dressing-room they were two easy balls for him, and because of the rebound he had no chance.”
United are 11 points off the top four, but Mourinho is adamant that a Champions League spot can still be clinched via the league.
“Of course we can’t win the title,” he admitted. “I can’t fix that, but we can still finish fourth. It’s not easy – for sure, we are going to finish in the top six, like all the other historical top teams.
“But we can get fourth position. Now, we must aim for fifth and probably later we can look to fourth.”