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Safety trumps style for pragmatic Jose

China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-20 07:41

Safety trumps style for pragmatic Jose

Jose Mourinho shows his frustration during Manchester United's win over Benfica at Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal, Oct 18, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

LISBON - Feted for winning trophies with style and panache, Manchester United fans might have to get used to Jose Mourinho's preferred safety-first strategy if Wednesday's dour 1-0 Champions League win over Benfica is anything to go by.

The result left United on the verge of reaching the Champions League knockout stages, and the Portuguese manager was happy.

"I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively," he told BT Sport.

"Sometimes I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results. We are one point from qualifying and one victory away from winning the group with two games at home to play."

Bereft of a cutting edge up front or creativity in midfield without the injured Paul Pogba, United won thanks to solid defending and a freak Marcus Rashford goal.

Still unbeaten in either the Champions League or in domestic competitions, United, sitting two points leader Manchester City, is in position to challenge for its first Premier League title since 2013

Having netted four goals in wins over West Ham, Swansea, Everton, Burton, CSKA Moscow and Crystal Palace, United's last two games against Liverpool and Benfica made those performances look like flat-track bullying.

Romelu Lukaku, the club's only out-and-out striker, made a dream start to his United career by scoring 11 goals in his first 10 games.

But the burly Belgian looked toothless in the draw at Liverpool and again on Wednesday in Lisbon.

Injuries to Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick have blunted United but its defense has held firm.

"Without any pressure, we knew the goal would arrive," Mourinho said.

United, though, was indebted to a dreadful error by 18-year-old goalkeeper Mile Svilar, who misjudged Rashford's 64th-minute freekick, then caught it after it sailed over his head but carried the ball over the line as he stepped back.

"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. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out," Mourinho said.

The wily Portuguese knows goals like Rashford's freak effort against novice Svilar, the youngest goalkeeper in Champions League history, will be difficult to come by against stronger rivals.

But at least he can rely on United's rock-solid rearguard.

Reuters

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