Belfast Telegraph

Jose Mourinho backing for Marcos Rojo

Jose Mourinho refused to criticise Marcos Rojo after the Manchester United man escaped a red card for the second time in 10 days following a nasty challenge during victory at Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.

The Red Devils showed character to battle to a 2-1 win at Selhurt Park as Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted an 88th-minute winner to keep Mourinho's men six points off the Premier League top four.

It had looked as though the visitors had once again thrown away points from a winning position as James McArthur equalised for Palace after Paul Pogba's controversial opener.

On a poor night for referee Craig Pawson and his officials, Pogba prodded United in front despite looking offside and with Ibrahimovic having handled the ball in the build-up.

The visitors would then be left feeling hard done by as they had a strong penalty appeal turned down when Joe Ledley cleared a corner with his arm, before Juan Mata saw a goal wrongly disallowed for offside.

But arguably the biggest flashpoint came when Rojo, who should have been sent off for a two-footed challenge on Everton's Idrissa Gueye less than a fortnight ago, executed a similar challenge on former United man Wilfried Zaha.

Again, the Argentina international was only punished with a yellow card, and Mourinho refused to criticise the defender - citing recent bad challenges on his players.

"He's playing really well, phenomenal," the United boss said.

"He's a clean player, aggressive. His nature, Argentinian, is emotional but very clean.

"I didn't comment on David Luiz on Marouane Fellaini, or Danny Rose on Henrikh Mkitaryian. I'm not going to comment on this one."

Eagles' boss Alan Pardew was more forthcoming when asked about the challenge and felt the former Sporting Lisbon man was lucky.

"It did look bad," he said.

"Looking back on it, he jumps two-footed on it, we've been to all these meetings where that's a red card."

Instead, Rojo stayed on the pitch as United produced a late winner through Ibrahimovic, with Mourinho full of praise for the 35-year-old.

"The quality is there," he said of the Swede.

"I knew that he could do what he's doing here. Lots of passion. I said England is not the best place to be on holidays.

"When a rich guy with a phenomenal career wants holidays, he doesn't come to England. It's the most difficult league in the world, so if you come here you want to show what you can do.

"That's what he did. It's not just about goals. It's about leadership and motivation. I'm so happy with what he has done."

The defeat for Palace brought to an end a mini revival which had seen them take four points from two games following a run of six defeats.

But Pardew was pleased with the effort of his players: "I have to look at my team and say we were committed tonight," he said.

"We tried to make it difficult for United. A couple of bad decisions went against us that half. We had a good spell in the second half, got a great goal, and it was a shame we couldn't capitalise on it."

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