Jose Mourinho joked a lack of bottled water at Old Trafford must mean Manchester United are saving money for the January transfer window, but Saturday’s comfortable win over Fulham suggested his squad might not need such radical surgery as previously thought.
For once United did not need to fall behind before taking control, getting goals from Ashley Young, Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku – his first at Old Trafford since March – before the break.
Fulham got back in it via Aboubakar Kamara’s penalty early in the second half, but Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa saw red for a second bookable offence soon after and Marcus Rashford finished Claudio Ranieri’s side off with a scorching shot out of nothing – his first home goal of the season.
Mourinho was unimpressed by a lack of water when he arrived for his post-match press conference – “Are we saving money for January?” he asked – but not much else about the afternoon irked him.
“The first half was really, really good at every level,” said Mourinho. “The second half, as I told the press, Ranieri has good experience. He read the game, understood the game and changed the game for the better for them. It was more difficult for us.
“Also there was some fatigue which is understandable…but it was a good result, a good performance and good individual performances. Lukaku and Rashford had no goals for a while, so their goals mean something for them too. I’m really happy.”
All of this happened with Paul Pogba once again left on the bench. Mourinho said the France midfielder would start against Valencia in the Champions League on Tuesday, but still had a message for his struggling star.
“He has to play with the same mentality as the team is playing,” Mourinho said when asked what he needed to do to get back in the side.
“Paul can be a fantastic player, he has the potential to be a fantastic player. Against Valencia he is going to start and have a fantastic football game to play and to show everybody how good he is.”
That suggests Mourinho wants Pogba to learn lessons from the performances of Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera.
“You have teams that are positionally good, ready to press, and with a desire to press, and I think these two boys – Matic and Herrera – have a really strong mentality,” Mourinho said.
“The way they play football is to play at their top of their level and then the people in front of them were also good.”
One of the most impressive performances of the day belonged to Diogo Dalot, making only his second Premier League start. The 19-year-old sent in a string of dangerous crosses while also keeping Fulham’s Andre Schurrle quiet at the other end.
“He has a lot to learn, he’s 19, but physically he’s compact, he’s technically very good and he’s a happy boy when he’s playing football,” Mourinho said. “He goes forward all the time with good quality of crossing.
“We are very happy. Now it’s December he’s going to get more opportunities to play, to get experience and to be what we thought when we bought him, which is the Manchester United right-back for 10 years.”
Fulham boss Ranieri was unhappy with Anguissa’s dismissal – which came after he tangled with Rashford – but told his players they can build on their second-half performance.
“My player touched the ball only and the referee gave a second yellow card,” Ranieri said. “It changed the match because the first minutes of the second half were much better.
“We showed what we have to do if we are to stay in the Premier League. I said to my players, the first half is how we get relegated. The second half is how we survive.”