Jose Mourinho: Never mind the result against Stoke, admire Man United's performance

Manchester United 1 Stoke 1
Jose Mourinho: Never mind the result against Stoke, admire Man United's performance

It was a typically defiant, almost perverse, analysis from the charismatic United leader, especially as he had seen his team defeat reigning champions Leicester by scoring four goals as recently as last weekend.

But after Anthony Martial’s opener was cancelled out by Joe Allen, via a rare mistake from United keeper David de Gea, Mourinho was certainly in the mood to accentuate the positives rather than critique the negatives - specifically, the host of glaring misses.

“It’s simple - that was the best performance of the season,” said Mourinho.

“(It could have been) 3-0 or 4-0 at half-time, six or seven at the end of the game … but the result was 1-1.

“That’s football. That’s very undeserved but, I repeat, that was a much better performance than against Leicester.

“Against Leicester, the result made more than the performance.

“Today, it was the opposite. That was our best performance by far. “

Ultimately, it took the introduction of Martial after 66 minutes, along with Wayne Rooney, for the inspirational Stoke keeper Lee Grant to finally be beaten three minutes later.

Martial’s attack ended with a pass which Rooney mis-controlled but a fortunate deflection off Geoff Cameron saw the ball break back to the French striker who curled home an impressive finish.

There had been little for Stoke supporters to cheer in that second half but, eight minutes from time, they equalised after de Gea failed to gather a deflected Glen Johnson shot.

Jonathan Walters pounced on the rebound and, after his effort had struck the crossbar, Allen had the task of bundling the ball into an open goal.

But how United and Mourinho were left to rue that catalogue of misses, that dated back to the second minute when Antonio Valencia’s pass found Paul Pogba whose magnificent through ball played Zlatan Ibrahimovic clean through only for the Swede to shoot directly at Grant, with the goal at his mercy.

In the minutes that followed, an Ibrahimovic pass was back-heeled by Jesse Lingard into the path of Pogba who shot wide.

Pogba’s lay-off soon found Juan Mata whose superb chip from just inside the area was tipped over, acrobatically, by Grant and, from the corner that followed, Daley Blind picked out Pogba whose downwards header bounced off target.

Ibrahimovic then showed yet more sublime skill with a near-post cross that was flicked goalwards by Lingard, forcing Grant into another decent save, and the United pair then switched roles - Lingard crossing to the far post on 31 minutes for Ibrahimovic, at full stretch, to see his shot blocked by Ryan Shawcross.

Onto the second half, and yet more openings for the Reds who, after taking the lead, should have doubled it when Marcus Rashford’s superb cross was mishit by Rooney, although Ibrahimovic kept the move going for Daley Blind to have a shot charged down by Glen Johnson, and a moment later Ibrahimovic did well to keep the ball down in forcing Grant into another decent stop.

Even after gifting Stoke the equaliser, United pressed on and placed the visitors under a late barrage which saw Grant saving well, yet again, from Ibrahimovic and Pogba, the £100 million man, missing his third very good chance of the day as he headed a Rashford centre against the bar.

“In the first minute, their goalkeeper made an unbelievable save,” said Mourinho.

“And he kept doing that until the end of the game. He started with an amazing save from Zlatan and ended with an amazing save from Zlatan. In between, we had five, six, seven great chances and complete control of the game.

“But I never criticise my players for missing chances. The goalkeeper is the man of the match and deservedly. The post, too.”

MAN UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 5; Valencia 7, Bailly 8, Smalling 6, Blind 6; Herrera 6 (Memphis 83, 6), Pogba 7; Lingard 6 (Martial 66, 6), Mata 7 (Rooney 66, 6), Rashford 7; Ibrahimovic 7.

Subs not used: Carrick, Romero, Fellaini, Darmian.

STOKE (4-2-3-1): Grant 10; Johnson 7, Shawcross 7, Martins Indi 6, Pieters 6; Cameron 6, Whelan 6; Shaqiri 7 (Bardsley 89), Allen 7, Arnautovic 5 (Walters 76, 6); Bony 4 (Crouch 76, 6).

Subs not used: Adam, Diouf, Given, Krkic.

Referee: R Madley 7.

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