Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho clung onto the positives after a derby loss to Manchester City that surely ends their faint title hopes.
Just days after securing a memorable Champions League comeback win at Juventus, the 177th Manchester derby went the way of the hosts in a largely one-sided Premier League encounter.
David Silva’s early goal was added to by Sergio Aguero just minutes into the second half, only for Anthony Martial to reduce the deficit from the penalty spot and bring back memories of United’s famous comeback in April.
But Mourinho’s men were unable to stave off defeat at the Etihad Stadium, where substitute Ilkay Gundogan wrapped up a 3-1 win.
Defeat means United are as close to Cardiff in the relegation zone as league-leading City – a 12-point gap that was mentioned to Mourinho when asked whether their title hopes were over.
“I think we are not going to be relegated,” the United boss said brusquely, before offering an upbeat analysis of a game in which Martial’s penalty was their only shot on target and their goal difference went into negative figures.
“So, when I analyse the game today, I think the difference was, you can go for stats,” Mourinho said.
“That’s the way people that don’t understand football analyse football, is with stats.
“I don’t go for stats, I go for what I felt and I watch in the game and the game was there until minute 80-something.
NEW RECORD 🙌— Premier League (@premierleague) November 11, 2018
This is the first time in English top-flight history that 3 clubs have remained unbeaten in their opening 12 games of the season (Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea) pic.twitter.com/BXkUeL3H0c
“So, I consider the performance of my team a performance with mistakes. It’s different than a bad performance.
“One thing is a bad performance another thing is a performance with mistakes.
“We made mistakes, we were punished by these mistakes, but the performance, the mentality, the togetherness, the belief, the fight until the end was something that we are building and we are not going to lose that because of a defeat.”
Counterpart Pep Guardiola was pleased with a deserved derby victory that gives City a two-point cushion at the top after 12 games – a stage reached with three unbeaten teams for the first time in English top-flight history.
“It is two points,” the City boss said. “Four points from Chelsea. It is nothing…it’s good, especially where we come from.”
Guardiola was in relaxed mood in the post-match press conference but appeared het up when going over to Raheem Sterling at the final whistle – a player who appeared to irk Juan Mata by doing stepovers at the end.
"It was a good performance against a top, top team. Now we can feel good; we're scoring lots of goals, creating lots of chances and we're in a rhythm"— Premier League (@premierleague) November 11, 2018
- @ManCity boss Pep Guardiola#MCIMUN pic.twitter.com/UjcGj0y7R4
“I like a lot when he played,” Guardiola said. “The best way to defend the result is to keep the ball. It’s the best way.
“And they did it, with Leroy (Sane) and Phil (Foden), they did it.
“That situation with two or three minutes left, they control absolutely. It’s not just the best way defending back, because everything can happen.
“But he made some movements with the legs, we can avoid it, but he’s young and he’s going to improve.”