José Mourinho laments players’ attitude after Wolves draw at Manchester United

Jamie Jackson at Old Trafford on 22 September 2018

Sir Alex Ferguson was back where he belongs – at Old Trafford – for the first time since recovering from a brain haemorrhage but he witnessed a disappointing draw for a Manchester United team who failed to turn dominance into three points. At the close Wolves came close to stealing victory when David de Gea saved a shot from Adama Traoré with a foot and the winger then blasted wide in added time.

This left José Mourinho again bewailing his players’ mindset, stating those of Wolves possessed a “World Cup final” attitude and his did not.

“They play like I like to play, which is like the World Cup final,” the manager said. “That is the attitude I like my teams to have in every match. We didn’t have that. This is something you learn when you are a kid in the academy. You don’t need experiences at the highest level to learn that. It is a basic law of football.

“I can’t explain the difference of attitude because I never had a difference of attitude. For me it is difficult to explain that.”

“I could say we were tired, Champions League [in mid-week], awful pitch [at Young Boys] – the body suffers the different impact on an artificial rather than actual grass – not coming home after the match. I could go in this direction but Alexis Sánchez and Jesse Lingard didn’t play. [Marouane] Fellaini played 20, 25 minutes, Fred played 60 minutes, [Antonio] Valencia also didn’t play.”

The visitors signalled early on they would push forward when possible, creating two chances for Raúl Jiménez, the attacking spearhead in Nuno Espírito Santo’s 5-4-1 set-up. Both times United were breached along Luke Shaw’s left corridor but Jiménez failed to take full advantage. He miscued the first and De Gea saved smartly from the second.

Mourinho paired Victor Lindelöf and Chris Smalling in central defence for a fourth successive game and Alexis Sánchez replaced Anthony Martial on the left. In all there were four changes by United’s manager. By contrast his Portuguese compatriot fielded the same XI he has for all Wolves’ league matches this season.

Mourinho’s faith in the Smalling-Lindelöf combination was hardly repaid by what occurred from two João Moutinho corners. When he floated the first over from the right, Ryan Bennett headed over. Then, moments later, Willy Boly forced a superb De Gea save with neither centre-back anywhere near.

It was reflective of how United were pinned back in virtually all of the opening passages. Yet after 20 minutes they were in the lead.

Shaw wandered forward, close to Wolves’ area and pinged in a cross. Eventually the ball fell to Paul Pogba and he continued his fine form from midweek with a cute reverse-flick to Fred, whose weak right-foot shot beat Rui Patrício.

On 27 minutes the stadium again rose to acclaim Ferguson, who could be seen beaming his appreciation – the timing a recognition of his number of years in charge of the club.

Sánchez continues to struggle for consistency but Ferguson would have approved of how he drove along the left and flipped a clever ball in toward the galloping Pogba and Romelu Lukaku as half-time neared.

On the touchline Espírito Santo was a frustrated man due to some of the decisions awarded against Wolves and, when Patrício dawdled and had to hoof the ball out as Jesse Lingard closed in, his frustration turned to fury.

United began the second half with a raking Pogba pass that Lukaku controlled expertly with a knee and for a moment Patrício’s goal looked threatened but the centre-forward’s shot was blocked.

It was a sign of the home side’s ascendancy, though too often they ceded the ball via clumsy touches, with Fred a chief culprit. This failing led to the visitors’ equaliser, although it was Pogba to blame.

The Frenchman attempted a fancy turn near halfway and lost the ball to Rúben Neves as the onlooking Mourinho reacted with concern, knowing what might now happen. It did: when Wolves tore forward, Jiménez passed the ball back inside United’s area to Moutinho, who smacked the ball home.

Mourinho’s reaction was to remove Fred and the ineffective Sánchez for Juan Mata and Martial on 62 minutes. Martial combined with Shaw for the latter to swing in a far-post cross from which Fellaini should have beaten Patrício. Instead the ball was diverted into the goalkeeper’s hands.

Mourinho’s last throw of the dice was the removal of Lingard for Andreas Pereira. The midfielder won a free-kick in a central area, 30 yards out, but it came to nothing and United’s run of victories ended.

“I am proud of the way we played,” said Espírito Santo. Meanwhile United are already eight points behind the leaders, Liverpool.

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