Mourinho jokingly blames Benitez for slow United start

Date published: Sunday 19th November 2017 12:35

Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic commanded the attention but Jose Mourinho was equally pleased to see Romelu Lukaku back on the scoresheet on Saturday.

Pogba, returning after two months on the sidelines, was the driving force as Manchester United returned to form with a 4-1 Premier League thrashing of Newcastle at Old Trafford.

The Frenchman set up a goal and scored another before Ibrahimovic made his long-awaited comeback from a knee injury as a late substitute.

But the gloss was provided by Lukaku, who lashed a ferocious shot into the roof of the net for United’s fourth. It was his first goal for the club since September after a barren run of seven games.

During that drought manager Mourinho had leapt to the Belgian’s defence in the face of frustration from fans, describing him as “untouchable in my team”, and the 70th-minute strike gave credence to his words.

Mourinho said: “He is a striker and strikers like to score goals. It is not a problem for me if he works like he always does and he doesn’t score goals but for their self-esteem, their confidence, strikers like to score goals.

“He was not doing that for us for a few matches and then all that can affect strikers’ confidence. I was really happy that he scored that goal.”

Lukaku’s effort capped a fine comeback from United that kept Manchester City’s lead at the top of the table to eight points.

Newcastle went ahead in a compelling first half through Dwight Gayle but the outstanding Pogba teed up an equaliser for Anthony Martial.

Chris Smalling headed United ahead before the break and the hosts went on to dominate the second period, scoring again through Pogba and Lukaku.

The result meant Mourinho came out victorious from his first meeting with old adversary Rafael Benitez in a decade.

The Portuguese said: “We didn’t start well but I don’t blame my players. I blame – in the positive sense – Benitez.

“Very experienced, very intelligent – the team was very well organised. They started very well, creating us problems and we couldn’t play at the same time they were creating those problems in our defensive areas.

“The goal was like a wake-up call and the team reacted very well. The second half was ours. We had control, we had goals, we had beautiful actions.”

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