Mourinho defends 'positive' Manchester United and says good defence 'is not a crime'
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Jose Mourinho took a swipe at those who question his tactics after Manchester United put one foot into the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 1-0 victory at Benfica.
The Portuguese was criticised by Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, among others, for a defensive mindset following a goalless draw between the fierce Premier League rivals at Anfield at the weekend.
But Mourinho, who was left sweating over a knee injury to Marcus Rashford, believes focusing on the backline is crucial after watching his side move onto nine points after three Group A games in Europe’s elite club competition.
He said: “We were the team that was positive and we were always in control. I never felt that we could concede a goal, we were very solid defensively — sometimes I feel that to be good defensively is a crime, but it is not a crime.
“To be good defensively is one step towards getting results. We knew the Benfica pressure could not stay on for 90 minutes.
“The amazing defensive work Liverpool did against us, Benfica could not do that for the whole game. Without any pressure, we knew the goal would arrive.
“We have nine points, we are basically one point from qualifying and one victory away from winning the group. A good game, solid.”
Rashford scored the only goal in the 65th minute after catching out Benfica’s 18-year-old goalkeeper Mile Svilar, who carried the ball over the line having been deceived by the England international’s long-range free-kick.
Rashford was substituted soon after and Mourinho added: “I thought it was cramp, I thought it was a bit of fatigue, but no it was something he felt in his knee. I hope nothing too bad.”
Svilar replaced Real Madrid great Iker Casillas as the youngest goalkeeper to start a Champions League match.
Mourinho added: “I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable.
“He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal.”
United midfielder Nemanja Matic said: “We scored a goal from Marcus Rashford’s free-kick and we had more chances. We played well in the second half and played well enough to take three points. It was hard for us but we managed to win.
“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well.
“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minutes but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes.”
United defender Victor Lindelof added: “Benfica are a good team and defended well with their experienced players.
“It felt good. I spent five years here and I am happy for the win. I did not feel anything, just happy to play and I wanted to help my team get the win.”
Svilar was close to tears at full-time, turning to his supporters and raising his hands in apology, before fellow countryman Romelu Lukaku came over with words of consolation and a hug.