Jose Mourinho Talks Mental Pressure, Marouane Fellaini Role After Loss to City

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2018

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Jose Mourinho the head coach / manager of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho believes his side felt "mental pressure" in their 3-1 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday. 

Goals from David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan gave the Sky Blues the win at the Etihad Stadium, with United's only reply coming from Anthony Martial via the penalty spot.

It was the Red Devils' second important away game in the space of five days, and Mourinho believes that took a toll on his players, per the Daily Mail's Chris Wheeler:

"Everybody has to agree, it is one thing to go to Juventus and play against one of the best teams in the world for 90 minutes—a game that demanded everything we had to give not just physically but also mentally—and another thing to beat Shakhtar Donetsk at home 6-0 and be very relaxed.

"We arrive in different circumstances. Manchester City played three matches at home and we played three matches away in a week where they enjoy 6-0, 6-1 victories, relaxed, no pressure, no mental effort, everything nice and easy,

"It is not the physical effort but the mental pressure. I think some of the boys felt it a little bit."

The Special One was also unhappy that Paul Pogba's injury-enforced absence meant he had to deploy Marouane Fellaini from the start.

"Fellaini was not ready to play for 90 minutes," he said. "I can just imagine when the result was 2-1 to bring a fresh Fellaini to the pitch. I think they would be in big trouble. But when we had that final push, Fellaini was doing an incredible effort to stay on the pitch and was not fresh at all."

Fellaini can be a disruptive force off the bench, even for a team of City's quality. However, Mourinho could have kept intact his original plan to use Fellaini as an impact sub by deploying Fred, who arrived for £52 million in the summer, in Pogba's place.

The Brazilian hasn't enjoyed the best of starts to his United career, but he at least might have been able to inject some more energy into their midfield three than the Belgian.

Mourinho's chosen trio of Fellaini, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera were often overrun in the centre, and they created little for United's forwards as a result. Martial's penalty was the Red Devils' only shot on target in the match.

The coach rejected the relevance of such stats to analyse the contest, but Rory Smith of the New York Times and ESPN FC's Michael Cox took issue with his comments:

Rory Smith @RorySmith

The odd thing about this is that, quite a lot of the time, the "stats" Mourinho thinks are irrelevant are just "facts," aren't they? "I don't go for facts, me." https://t.co/0dlwflPtWU

Michael Cox @Zonal_Marking

Manchester United have a negative goal difference https://t.co/J0RnA1IvZy

Another number that makes for damning reading is that United are now 12 points behind Premier League leaders City. The same gap separates the Red Devils from Cardiff City in 18th, but Mourinho shrugged it off in his post-match press conference.

"I think we're not going to be relegated," he said, per Goal's Ryan Benson.

The result has left United eighth heading into the international break, and despite their win against Juventus last week, it was no surprise to see them outclassed by City at the Etihad.

As the Daily Mail's Adam Crafton noted, the match did little more than reinforce what many already believed:

Adam Crafton @AdamCrafton_

City are excellent and improving. United are average and drifting. A day to confirm what was already known.

That United's mediocrity is expected at this point is perhaps an even bigger indictment than the gulf in class between the two sides itself.

Mourinho isn't solely responsible for that, as the team went in that direction under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal before him. However, he hasn't improved them nearly as much as the club would have hoped when they appointed him.

United's win over Juventus showed they're capable of pulling off some impressive results, but after such a sobering reminder of how far they still need to go, the club need to consider whether they can achieve their goals under the current management structure.