Jose Mourinho hadn’t even been asked about Manchester City’s ‘All or Nothing’ documentary. He was questioned instead about how much Kevin de Bruyne’s injury might affect the title race, but it was the fly-on-the-wall series he wanted to really get his teeth into.
“I was expecting a different kind of question. You don’t want to speak about the movie? I haven’t seen it but I know a few things. My reaction is if you are a rich club you can buy top players, you cannot buy class.”
After watching his side turn in a pathetic defensive display in the 3-2 loss at Brighton on Sunday, just a couple of hours after City had demolished Huddersfield 6-1, the Manchester United manager might wish he had kept his mouth shut in his pre-match press conference.
This was arguably their worst performance under Mourinho, with the first-half display underlining the fact that United really needed to do more in the summer market to address their issues in their own half of the field. Coming so soon after he had called City’s class into question, the Portuguese was reminded that it may be prudent to concentrate on issues closer to home rather than trying to police how more successful sides behave.
The problems at United led to a summer in which Mourinho himself had pushed for further investment in centre-backs only for the board to claim his targets – principally Toby Alderweireld and Harry Maguire – were no better than what he already had. But it was two of the manager’s own signings who helped to make his point for him on Sunday.
Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof were both given the run-around by Glenn Murray and Pascal Gross, while Ashley Young was exposed far too easily and there was little in the way of protection from the centre of midfield, with Fred twice dispossessed in tight spots leading up to Brighton goals.
Murray stole in to beat the sleeping centre-back pair to the ball and open the scoring from a left-wing cross after Young had been left to fend for himself out wide, then Bailly was rushed into clearing the ball out for a corner after Fred had been forced onto the back-foot in midfield. From the flag kick, United couldn’t clear despite having two or three chances to do so and Shane Duffy made it 2-0.
And shortly after Romelu Lukaku had got United back into it from a Luke Shaw cross, David de Gea’s poor pass for Fred allowed Brighton to win back the ball and Bailly and Lindelof were both caught napping, leaving the Ivorian to make a desperate tackle on Gross and concede a penalty which the German tucked home.
It was an absolute shower of a performance from United, who looked uncertain at every turn and also managed to be completely impotent when Brighton backed off and asked them to come up with something on the ball.
After Paul Pogba’s storming performance against Leicester City last week, he was anonymous at times at the Amex - although he did convert a consolation penalty deep into injury time.
Anthony Martial’s surprise start at the expense of the injured Alexis Sanchez resulted in a quiet performance which is unlikely to win him any greater recognition in selections coming up. Lukaku looked short of sharpness in his first start since the World Cup, with a scuffed effort at 0-0 helping to set the table for an afternoon to forget.
But it was without the ball that United were at their worst, and Mourinho’s pre-summer concerns have been proved accurate. That being said, he is the man who has to do something about the issues they have.
He may be battling City at every opportunity in press conferences but the evidence of Sunday suggests United are still nowhere near ready to mount a challenge on their local rivals on the field. United ought to be priming themselves for a title run but right now they appear to be a long way short of what is necessary.
Whatever Mourinho’s concerns over his defence, he has to address them. Whatever his worries about the lack of fight among his group, he has to get it sorted. And whatever he thinks of teams better placed than his own, he would do well to keep it to himself for the time being.