Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has claimed that Arsenal were lucky to beat his team in Sunday’s Premier League clash at the Emirates on Sunday.
A deflected goal off Ander Herrera from Granit Xhaka’s long range strike and a header from United’s former player Danny Welbeck saw Arsenal end United’s 25-match unbeaten run.
Reacting to the defeat, Mourinho who made eight changes from his team that beat Celta Vigo in the semifinals of the Europa League on Thursday, praised his team for their performance.
“I am disappointed with the result but not the performance, at all. I liked very, very much the individual performances and I also liked them collectively,” Mourinho said in his post-match press conference.
“We lost because we didn’t score and we had great chances to score before them. They had the luck of that goal, and we didn’t score before them. Just that.
“Apart from that, I cannot demand more from players that didn’t play one minute of football in the last seven weeks. We didn’t deserve to lose. It was an incredible deflection [for the first goal by Granit Xhaka]. It was a long-distance shot, not even a short-distance shot. Then the ball made a very strange flight but that’s football.
“Arsenal were not better than us in my opinion. They scored, they won. Congratulations.”
Mourinho reserved special praise for Phil Jones, Juan Mata and Chris Smalling who just returned from injuries.
He also hailed 19-year old Axel Tunazebe who made his EPL debut.
“I think [Phil] Jones, [Chris] Smalling, [Juan] Mata, they were amazing in the way they performed. They showed amazing effort and attitude after seven weeks without playing football due to important injuries,” Mourinho added.
“The kid [Axel Tuanzebe] was the same. I think he did an amazing job and I think Alexis [Sanchez] knows his name because the kid played very well.
“There were also great contributions by people like [Matteo] Darmian, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan and [Ander] Herrera who played last Thursday. Wayne [Rooney] was amazing, [Michael] Carrick was giving experience and [Anthony] Martial gave great effort and had a quality game. Other players were trying to do everything.
“It was difficult for me to manage the game because in the end the players I wanted to replace were players that in principle will start the game on Thursday. It was difficult to manage it but I think the team was good, was organised, tried to win, played to win, defended well.”
On his fears going into the Arsenal game following the changes made after the game against Celta Vigo, Mourinho said: “I feared that the players could not play for 90 minutes. I feared that my changes – instead of being to change Herrera and Mkhitaryan, players who played 90 minutes in Vigo, I feared that I would have to change Mata, Jones and Smalling. But they were fantastic.
“I think this game is a plus for them, to play 90 minutes is fantastic because now we have three Premier League games to play plus the semi-final and let’s hope we have one more game to play.
“We need everybody and these 90 minutes are fantastic for them and is good for the team. We have such a small squad at the moment, it’s so good that these guys have a fantastic answer.”
And whether United’s Champions League hopes now rest on the Europa League, he said: “I think with the last result against Swansea and the defeat today we have to be pragmatic and see it is difficult [to finish in the top four]. But we have a competition which is the second biggest competition in Europe and we are almost there so the players want, I want, and I think a club like us would always prefer to go into Champions League by winning a trophy than by finishing fourth.
“What’s the difference between finishing fourth and fifth? The difference is just the Champions League so you go with everything in the Europa League. We have a big match on Thursday and at least I could give to many of my players a rest and to give them the conditions to be at the top level on Thursday.
“You can tell me we didn’t play with the best team or all the players that are my first choice at the moment. But you cannot say that we did not try to win the game and that’s what we are going to try to do in the remaining three matches in the Premier League. But obviously everything is on Thursday.”