Jose Mourinho felt let down by Manchester United’s players, accusing them of ignoring his advice and treating the Europa League clash at Fenerbahce like a “summer friendly”.
On the back of Saturday’s frustrating goalless draw against Burnley and with a touchline ban looming at Swansea this weekend, any hopes the United boss had of a morale-boosting win in Istanbul was swiftly extinguished.
Moussa Sow’s outrageous overhead kick after 65 seconds gave Fenerbahce a lead that Jeremain Lens, on loan from Sunderland, extended with a superb second-half free-kick.
Wayne Rooney superbly pulled one back late on – equalling Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 38-goal record as United’s all-time European top scorer – but a frantic final few minutes was unable to prevent a 2-1 loss.
Mourinho pulled no punches in his post-match assessment, telling BT Sport: “Our problem started in our global attitude.
“They (Fenerbahce) were playing the Champions League final and we were playing a summer friendly. That is the reality of the way the game started.”
This was always going to be a far cry from United’s 4-1 win over Fenerbahce at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, but they froze in front of the baying Sukru Saracoglu Stadium crowd.
“What disappointed me more is that I have quite a big experience of playing against Turkish teams,” Mourinho, who lost Paul Pogba to injury after 30 minutes, said in the post-match press conference.
“And my experience is that when you play against them in our home, it’s easy. It’s always 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, it’s easy.
“You come to Turkey and it is completely different story, so I told them to wait for that, told them not to be focused on the easy game we had at Old Trafford and to be ready for a completely different game,
“We started the game sleeping. I know that we have a problem and especially away from home, it’s difficult to play without two proper central defenders.
“Football play starts with goalkeeper, two strong central defenders. We are playing with two left-backs (Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo) as central defenders and poor Blind is even having to play central defender on the right, which is even more complicated.
“So I think at this moment we lack that structure there, but they start 100 miles per hour and we start really slowly.
“They had the kick-off, they go immediately, the referee gives a free-kick. They take the free-kick in a fast way, we are sleeping, we don’t react. Then it’s a ball in the other side, we lose the second ball. Then the cross is coming, we don’t mark Sow in the box and then the game is a different story.
“Then they are where they want to be. They are in front, then they can control the game, they can defend with a lot of bodies, they can wait for counter-attacks. They can simulate a few fouls, put some pressure on the referee, stop the game, win time, provoke some conflicts.
“But it is not their fault, it our fault that we let them be 1-0 in front.
“Then obviously when you are losing 2-0, the players had a reaction and they tried and probably they could (have equalised).
“But I think we don’t deserve because for me football is from the first second and Fenerbahce played an emotional game. Football is an emotional game and they deserve (to win).”
The result sees Fenerbahce usurp United in the Group A standings, but Mourinho remains confident his side will qualify.