David Moyes bemoaned Manchester United’s “terrible” defending after their 3-1 defeat to Chelsea, and was left once again having to insist that he will still not “throw in the towel” in the title race.
United are stranded in seventh place in the Premier League table, 14 points behind the leaders Arsenal, after a loss which Moyes put down entirely to poor defending. “I thought we played quite well throughout the game, but the game came down to two set-pieces and we didn’t defend them well,” Moyes said afterwards. “That was probably the difference.
“We had as many opportunities as Chelsea and didn’t take them. In both boxes we didn’t do well enough. In between we had a big part of the game, but we didn’t score when we had chances and we didn’t defend corners or set-plays well enough.
“The first goal took a deflection and it looped over the goalkeeper, and we didn’t deserve to be a goal down. We might have been a goal up. At 1-0 we were still in it. But we were terrible at defending the corner kick, didn’t defend it well enough in the second phase.”
Mourinho said afterwards that he could not foresee United retaining their Premier League title, as it would need all three leaders to collapse. “I don’t think David will be upset if I say the reality: 14 points difference [to Arsenal], and 13 and 12 [to Manchester City and Chelsea]. Can they recover to one of these teams? They can. But to three of them? It needs three teams to have almost a collapse.”
But Moyes promised that United would not stop trying to retain their title until it was mathematically impossible. “What we won’t do is throw the towel in until we can’t get there,” he said. “The job is to try and finish first.”
With United struggling as badly as they have been, Moyes did concede that they were not meeting expectations, and said it would be a “massive challenge” to transform their fortunes.
“It’s a difficult task, but I will show perseverance and do what’s right. We have players to come back, and this is a project that I’m going to improve as we go along. There will be changes on the journey. It’s a massive challenge. I’d hoped I’d be in a far better position than this, but we’re not. As a football person it’s a great challenge to have.”
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres injured the lateral ligament in his knee during the game and will be out for “weeks”, according to Mourinho.
He sustained the injury minutes after replacing Samuel Eto’o late in the second half. This means that Demba Ba will start against Stoke City in Sunday’s FA Cup tie. “It’s a pity for Nando,” said Mourinho, “but it’s time for Demba. It’s his chance”.
Mourinho praised referee Phil Dowd after the game and suggested that some other managers ought to be more even-handed in their treatment of officials. “Other managers – not David – say the opposite where their players make the referee’s life very difficult, and because of them the refs make wrong decisions and are then criticised. Maybe we need a managers’ meeting with the referees as we had in the summer. Some managers have forgotten the meeting.
“Maybe I am very naïve when I criticise my players, because the others don’t. They cry. They cry when it’s not going in their favour. When the other day they get a penalty or don’t, and when the pundits are friends and wear the same shirts as them.”
When asked if he had a particular manager in mind, Mourinho dodged the question by saying he was speaking about “an under-16 match I watched”.
Despite the win, Mourinho admitted that it was not a perfect performance: “We have to improve. I want better. The first 20 minutes were not good. We have to improve. I want to be in control from the beginning, and we were not. They were stronger than us in the beginning.”