Manchester United are through to the FA Cup semi-final but Jose Mourinho has insisted he did not get the response he asked for after their shock Champions League exit against Sevilla earlier this week.
A sterling performance from Nemanja Matic helped United limp over the line on Saturday evening as they unconvincingly beat a spirited and resilient Brighton side 2-0 in the FA Cup quarter-final.
In an extraordinary rant after the game, Mourinho both singled out the Serbian for praise and slammed his side’s performance, saying Matic was ‘an island of personality surrounded by not water but lack of personality, lack of class and a lack of desire.’
Asked whether his players reacted aptly to their European disappointment Mourinho gave a frank response.
‘No,’ he told BT Sport before elaborating. ‘I didn’t like the game, I think we deserved to win but we did not play the way I wanted them to play, I did not have the reaction from all of them.
‘I had the reaction from some of them and because some of them were mentally strong enough and with the football quality to play was the reason why we won.
‘But a team of 11 when you don’t have a minimum of six, seven players performing and wanting to play and wanting to have the responsibility to have the ball, the desire to really play – because one thing is to play and another is to be on the pitch – it’s difficult to have a good performance.
‘I’m not happy with the performance at all but I’m happy with the result.’
The United boss was animated on the touchline all game, in an effort to inject some dynamism and energy into his side but was left feeling frustrated by the flat display and failure to implement his tactics.
‘When I spend two days working on a faster building gap and the ball arriving earlier in between the lines and attacking areas and that depends on quality decision by the defenders in possession but also depends on the movement from attacking players.
‘When I spend two days working on this and I arrive here and attacking players are hiding behind defenders, not wanting the ball between the lines, defenders playing just square passes and taking 10, 12 passes just for the ball to go from one line to another I have to feel frustrated because I think as a coach the biggest frustration sometimes is not the result because a bad result can happen sometimes, the biggest frustration for me is when I work on the pitch and then I see contradictions in the match.’
Scott McTominay partnered Matic in United’s midfield against Brighton as he has done for the past few weeks amid Paul Pogba’s poor form.
Mourinho was unimpressed with the 21-year-old’s performance but praised him for showing a desire he felt was lacking in the majority of his players.
‘McTominay lost more passes today than in all the matches he has played together but he was a Manchester United player and for me a Manchester United player is a player that when he plays bad, he gives to the team and that’s a question of personality, that is a Manchester United player for me.
‘The perfect Manchester United player is the one who has quality and personality and is consistent on that but when you play bad – and as a football player you can play bad – when you play bad you must have that personality, that that kid of 20-years-old had and some of the others they didn’t have.’