Jose Mourinho has hailed his players for the way they reacted to going behind following Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Newcastle United.
The visitors made an enthusiastic start and went ahead through Dwight Gayle following some great work from DeAndre Yedlin, only to be pegged back soon after by Anthony Martial‘s header.
And they didn’t look back after that, with Paul Pogba leading a superb attacking onslaught that saw Man United go ahead just before half time through Chris Smalling before the Frenchman and Romelu Lukaku added second half goals to wrap up an emphatic win.
Speaking after the game, Mourinho was quick to rejoice at seeing his side mount such an emphatic response to falling behind.
“The performance after the goal,” he said. “That mentality to react without panic and to react in a positive way and obviously the returning of injured players is always nice and especially in Zlatan’s case such a dramatic injury to see him be back is a great emotion.”
And when asked about the impact made by Pogba, who returned to the starting XI after 12 games on the sidelines, Mourinho said: “Different class. What we had in the beginning of the season with Paul and Matic pairing up together and being the engine of the team.
“We lost a little bit of that because other players are good players but they have different qualities so it was good and I left it in Paul’s hands how many minutes he wanted to play.
“He was feeling just the first bit of fatigue so he made that decision on a good time and I think great performance for him.”
United only came from behind to win on two occasions in all competitions last season. But this has been a deep-rooted attitudinal issue that predates Mourinho’s time at the club; such a malaise has probably been one of the more enduring effects of the post-Fergie era.
But this was a superb breath of fresh air. The way in which United, spurred on by Pogba’s return to the midfield, managed to alleviate a tense, gloomy atmosphere and replace it with an air of expectancy – almost as if supporters could sense a brutal comeback lingering round the corner – is an important nod towards the improved control they have over games.
United have struggled to make themselves heard in midfield in recent times, but Pogba’s return alongside Matic has taken them back to full strength in emphatic fashion.