Manchester United are one step closer to a potential League Cup Final matchup with bitter rivals Liverpool, but watching his side beat Hull City 2-0 in the EFL Cup semifinal first leg on Tuesday, Jose Mourinho wanted to talk ore about the fans than the win.
The United boss urged their fans to improve when the club face Liverpool in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday — telling them not to just “come to the theatre” but “play with us.”
Old Trafford had a flat atmosphere inside it for much of the United were not at their best on the pitch, and that was met by quietness in the stands, until Juan Mata broke the deadlock and Marouane Fellaini added a late second to secure a 2-0 advantage.
Speaking in his postmatch news conference, Mourinho said:
“Maybe I didn’t do my job well to prepare players for the game. Maybe I should bring more tension to the dynamic, preparing the game.
“The players have to improve, I have to improve and the fans also have to improve for a big match on Sunday. Today our performance was good enough to win but, on Sunday, we all have to improve.
“I always think we are responsible for the fans’ participation in the game. It’s our responsibility.
“If we play well and enthusiastically, the fans come on to the pitch. When we don’t play so well, and not with emotion and intensity, it’s normal for the fans to relax a bit.
“We have amazing fans. When we were not good, they were behind us, pushing us, supporting us.
“What I feel is that Sunday is a special match for us, a special match for Manchester United fans. Don’t come to the theatre — come to play with us.”
Fellaini ran over to Mourinho and embraced him after scoring his late goal — but the United manager still does not believe that the job is done ahead of the second leg in Hull on Jan 26.
Discussing the Belgian’s goal, he said: ”
It’s important but I’m not going to say we are going to Wembley — but it gives us a little bit of space.”
Speaking about the celebration, after he had publicly backed Fellaini, he added:
“That’s why I’m here — to support the players, especially players in a difficult situation.
“He has a very strong mentality. He was not afraid, in the next match after Everton [when the Belgian gave away a penalty] to go to the pitch again.
“Today he scored an important goal for us. It changed the dynamic and empathy with the fans.”