Phil Jones believes Manchester United showed fight and courage to get back on track after being rocked by the “magnitude” of their derby defeat.
Jose Mourinho’s men saw their club record-equalling 40-match unbeaten home run come to an end on Sunday as runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City secured a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.
The result enabled Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling side to open up an 11-point lead over second-placed United, who got back to winning ways on Wednesday as Romelu Lukaku secured a hard-fought 1-0 win against Bournemouth.
Mourinho’s Red Devils were far from their best but Jones was pleased by both the character and outcome in the wake of the tense loss to bitter rivals City.
“It was always going to be difficult off the back of the derby defeat,” the United defender said.
“(We were) so disappointed in many ways because of the magnitude of the (derby) game and we wanted to do more.
“We wanted to win the game and unfortunately it wasn’t to be, so it was important that we came out tonight, showed a bit of fight and a bit of courage, (with) players getting on the ball and trying to do something.
“It wasn’t pretty at times. We had to dig deep and grind it out, but the most important thing was to get three points and get back on track.
“I’d just like to say to thank you to the fans as well because I think it was difficult for them on Sunday in the derby defeat.
“Tonight they stuck by us again. When times are hard, they’re singing, they’re chanting for us and we’ll need that going on in the season.”
It is that kind of backing that feels crucial right now to someone like summer signing Lukaku.
The 24-year-old’s first-half header was just his third goal in his last 15 appearances for United, with the Belgium striker barely celebrating what proved to be the decisive moment.
“He did well, rose above his man and that’s what he does best,” Jones told MUTV.
“He’s going through a patch where he’s not scoring goals, but he’s doing other things for us in the match. I am pleased for him tonight. Hopefully he can kick on and score some more goals now.”
Jones, too, hopes to move on after ending his five-week absence from the United line-up, having been laid low by injury since going away with England.
“It was a strange, strange little injury I had but it is nice to be back,” he said.
“I feel good, I feel fit and just pleased with the three points, to be fair.”
Jones’ return is a welcome boost to a defence that could be without Eric Bailly for a sustained period with an ankle complaint that United manager Mourinho has warned looks “serious”.
The Ivory Coast international looks set to be absent well beyond the trip to West Brom on Sunday, when Bournemouth host Liverpool buoyed by a promising display at Old Trafford.
“We’re disappointed because we’ve been beaten, but I’m really pleased with the performance,” Cherries boss Eddie Howe said.
“I thought we were very good today and were very disciplined out of possession.
“We were also very good with the ball and created numerous chances.”