Mourinho questions players' attitude after Fenerbahce defeat
'They were playing the Champions League final, we were playing a summer friendly,' says United boss after setback
Fenerbahce 2 Man Utd 1
There was Turkish despair for Jose Mourinho in Istanbul on Thursday night as Manchester United's season suffered another dispiriting blow. Without a Premier League win since September, the Red Devils slumped to defeat against Fenerbahce to leave them third in Group A of the Europa League.
If United are to progress to the knockout phase of the tournament they'll now need to beat Feyenoord at Old Trafford later this month and then travel to the Ukraine in December and pick up at least a point against Zorya Luhansk. In the meantime they'll also have to hope that Fenerbahce, who with Feyenoord have seven points - one more than United - slip up in their remaining two games.
There were few positives to take for United from a match that served only to extend their shocking form on the road in Europe. They've now lost eight of their last nine away games in Europe, (excluding qualifiers) with memories of their run to the final of the 2011 Champions League now a distant memory.
Against Fenerbahce they were a goal down after in under two minutes as Moussa Sow gave the hosts the lead with a superb overhead kick. David de Gea was a helpless bystander in the United goal and the Spaniard was again left rooted to the spot when Jeremain Lens curled in a spectacular free-kick on the hour mark.
Wayne Rooney got a late goal for the visitors, rifling home from 25 yards to equal Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of 38 European goals for United but it was a worthless strike in the context of the Red Devils season.
With world-record signing Paul Pogba hobbling off injured in the first-half, it was a miserable night for Manchester United, as Mourinho acknowledged: "They deserved to win," he said. "Football is not just about quality, it is also about effort, commitments, playing the limits and giving everything... our problems started in our global attitude. They were playing the Champions League final, we were playing a summer friendly."
Nonetheless, Mourinho lamented his side's deficiencies, particularly in defence where the makeshift central defence of Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo struggled. "The injuries [to Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly] are not easy ones and the injuries are all in the same area," said Mourinho.
"Could be a striker, a midfielder and a defender, but no, it's three defenders. So, yes, we are in trouble, but these boys are coping well in the last two matches. It is difficult to play a game of this difficulty with two left-backs playing in central defence. It is not possible to be dominant and strong."
Mourinho's response to the withdrawal of Pogba was to send on Zlatan Ibrahimovic rather than introduce Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The 35-year-old Swede is many things but swift isn't one of them and, paired with the ageing Rooney, he blunted United's attack in the second half.
"We had creative players on the pitch but we are not scoring enough goals," conceded the Portuguese. "After the second goal, we had a reaction and could have got a different result but we did not deserve more. You have to play for 90 minutes in the maximum of your desire and concentration."