Jose Mourinho has hailed the resilience of his players following Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final.
Man United were flat during the opening stages while Spurs raced out of the blocks as usual, going ahead through Dele Alli after 11 minutes.
But Mourinho’s side – and Paul Pogba most notably – recovered and pulled level through Alexis Sanchez, before taking control of the game after half time and going ahead via Ander Herrera‘s powerful strike.
And the 55-year-old, speaking after the game, was quick to praise the way his squad showed true mettle to fight back against Tottenham.
“I’m very happy I feel sometimes that it’s not fair exaggerated criticism but the best way to answer is to work and to live and cope with it and to fight,” he said.
“Which is what we all did this week. Bad performance on Sunday – not happy, not happy at all. But we stick together and work together and stay away from everything for five days and now we can go back to Manchester with the 2nd place in the Premier League having played one match less than Liverpool and with a place in the final.
“I think you don’t get strong with happiness in negative moments, with let it go because we just lost football match I think you grow up with criticism and pressure an intense work mentally and physical and I think we are growing up and two very good performances this week using almost every player of the squad. Everyone is really happy to go back with a place in the final.
“The only way to play for big clubs you must have an incredible talent or good talent with an incredible mentality if you don’t have quality you can’t play for a big club but this is about trying to find a balance of good talent but with mental toughness.
“We need a bit more from Old Trafford and looking to the next season if we want to do next season it’s not possible to do it without Old Trafford.”
22 minutes had been played and Mourinho had seen enough. For the opening stages he was watching on contemplatively, taking it all in, writing down notes. But now he was in overdrive, gesticulating wildly and screaming at two players in particular: Pogba and Herrera.
The pair were hardly in the game. Pogba wasn’t getting on the ball and his body language was all wrong, while Herrera was giving the dangerous Christian Eriksen far too much space.
And then, just like that, it all switched. Herrera was suddenly covering just that extra bit more ground and Pogba was putting some muscle into his performance, demanding the ball and sending over a pinpoint cross for Alexis that changed the feel of the encounter.
For those in the media claiming that Mourinho is out of touch with the dressing room, that United’s successes this season have been in spite of him, this was visual proof that they were wrong.