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World Cup 2018

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Manchester United players aren't to blame for Basel defeat, insists Mourinho

 

By Simon Peach

Jose Mourinho was left frustrated after Manchester United were caught cold by Basel and forced to wait to secure their place in the Champions League last-16 stage.

Kicking off Group A with four straight wins left United on the cusp of the knockout rounds, but the end of their 100 per cent record has prolonged the wait for what surely remains inevitable progress.

Michael Lang's late sucker punch secured Basel a deserved 1-0 win, which left Mourinho somewhat confused about the permutations, but all his side need to do is avoid a huge and highly unlikely defeat at home to CSKA Moscow to progress.

United had been on course for a point that would see them win Group A, but appeared to be caught in two minds about whether to stick and secure a point or twist in a bid to win.

"We played against a team that played with five defenders," Mourinho said. "We knew that.

"We tried to play with three attacking players and that worked in the first half because they couldn't handle us.

"We didn't score in the second half probably (because of) the fact that we know one point is enough.

"Probably (when) at 75 minutes, 80 minutes we didn't score, so it is not time to try to win, it is now time to try control and in the end we lost.

"So it's hard for me to be upset with the players. The first half the attitude was good, the football was good. It is really difficult to blame. It's just football."

Mourinho said it "should have been 5-0" in the first half.

Despite making seven changes, United dominated in the opening period on the relaid St Jakob-Park turf as Paul Pogba, captaining the side for the second time, pulled the strings.

It was just his second appearance since a hamstring injury sustained when the sides met on matchday one at Old Trafford, and his exit in Switzerland after 66 minutes making a telling impact.

"The first half was a perfect half - without the goals," Mourinho said.

"It was difficult to repeat in the second half. We knew that the opponent would try a different reaction.

"Did Paul Pogba coming out have an impact on the team? I think it had an impact.

"We were not such a good team after Paul come out, but he had to be (substituted). He cannot go to levels of fatigue after 65 minutes.

"But I brought to the pitch an experienced player like (Nemanja) Matic and I thought he could affect the game.

"I bring Marcus (Rashford) to give us more depth, more speed, more problems to them, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) to hold the ball, drop and have it.

"The approach was good, I cannot blame the players

"I think we play a match like this 10 times and nine we win comfortably. The one we lose and the one was now."

United lost on their last visit to St Jakob-Park six years ago and head coach Raphael Wicky was pleased by Basel's performance.

"I don't want to talk too much about the opponent," the head coach said. "We deserved the victory. We played hard and deserved this victory."

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