José Mourinho admitted he will be unable to work miracles to restore Manchester United’s confidence after they fell to a second successive defeat with a 1-0 loss to Feyenoord on Thursday night.
A 79th-minute Tonny Vilhena goal ensured United began their Europa Leaguecampaign with defeat in Rotterdam to set a club record of four away defeats running in European competition.
While Mourinho was correct to complain that Nicolai Jorgensen was offside in the buildup to the goal, the listless manner of the reverse is again the overriding concern. After also being beaten by Manchester City in Saturday’s derby, Mourinho takes United to Watford for Sunday’s early game knowing he must avoid a third defeat in a row.
“When you lose matches, there are no miracles in terms of the players’ soul,” he said. “You win matches, people are happy and full of confidence. You lose matches and people are sad and feel it. But of course I’m here not to let them be in a negative mood or in a negative period because we lost two matches – two matches where we didn’t play well for 90 minutes but two matches where we deserve a better result.
“First of all I have players who are not here, I have players that didn’t play here for 90 minutes, so it’s not a problem of accumulation. I know we play midday on Sunday and in this moment it’s 9pm on Thursday but we are professionals. Let’s not make an excuse for Sunday because we have to play this game. The players are professional, they have to be fit and they are, and they have to be mentally strong to play again.”
Despite the two consecutive losses Mourinho remains calm. “When we won the Community Shield and the first three Premier League matches I was not on the moon, I was not saying we were a phenomenal team and we are going to destroy every opponent. I said: ‘Yes, it’s a good start, yes, a very good start,’ but I was never on the moon,” he said. “I know the situation is not a case of clicking your fingers and everything is perfect, but to be honest I think we didn’t play phenomenal matches in these two defeats but to lose both I think is a punishment for the team because I think we deserved more.”
Mourinho was clear what the problem was before the break against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team. “In the first half we did not have an especially ambitious attitude,” said the Portuguese. “I’m not saying bad but I’m not saying with the ambition you need to win football matches. We were not trying to win, we were just in control of the game and waiting for the possibility to win or not to win. The second half was different, when we were trying to win and Feyenoord were trying not to lose. Then they scored the goal, which I don’t think we deserved. And double unlucky because he was offside.”
Of Paul Pogba, who was disappointing, the manager said: “He was like the team. In the first half they were in control, but they were playing half-pace. In the second half was when they were increasing their intensity and it was when they conceded the goal.”