Jose Mourinho has admitted that Manchester United missed certain players during their 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Sunday.
And Man United’s lack of options in midfield became apparent as Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante, despite a positive first 15 minutes from the visitors, offered more vitality on the ball.
Speaking after the game, Mourinho noted that he missed the clout in midfield needed to create space going forward at Stamford Bridge.
“I think a big game, powerful team against powerful team, tactically, emotionally, physically,” he said. “Of course we missed some important players, especially the quality and the physicality of some of them who could not be available.”
“The team that scored first probably wins because both teams are very good defensively and being in front could be always an advantage but they score before us and then they were in a more comfortable position.
“Even so I think we lost emotionally for a few minute after the goal, the team was a bit in trouble to be confident again and to try to play again.
“But then we had a good reaction, good control, obviously they had the space for the counter-attack. We had initiative, courage, dynamic, and we had the chances to equalise, which I think could be a fair result.
“But this is not about what is fair or what is not fair, it’s about the pragmatism of the result. One goal, three points. Congratulations.”
The 54-year-old has made a habit of saying that he won’t cry over the number of players sidelined through injury, but the absence of Pogba and Fellaini in the starting XI was felt hard against the champions, and he knew it.
This game was won in midfield. Kante and Fabregas were exceptional, working closely in conjunction with each other to win the ball back and move play up the pitch quickly whilst Tiemoue Bakayoko provided the legs that United sorely missed.
Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic battled hard, but it wasn’t enough to swing the pendulum in United’s favour. You always felt like Chelsea had more manpower and options at the core of proceedings.
Supporters will be relieved to see both Fellaini and Pogba return to full fitness following the international break.