Mourinho demands more from Manchester United and fans ahead of Liverpool clash
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho stressed after his side’s EFL Cup victory over Hull the need for improvement from himself, his players and the club’s fans when the Red Devils host Liverpool on Sunday.
United beat Hull 2-0 in Tuesday’s semi-final first-leg at Old Trafford thanks to a 56th-minute Juan Mata effort and substitute Marouane Fellaini’s header three minutes from time.
Despite what he called an “important” result having been achieved, Mourinho agreed afterwards when asked if he felt there had been a sense of complacency on United’s part about the fixture.
And he said: “Maybe I didn’t do my job well to prepare the players for the game. Maybe I should bring more tension to the dynamic that prepares the game.
“But the players have to improve and I have to improve.
“And I am sorry to say I think the fans have also to improve for a big match on Sunday. Today, our performances were enough to win but for Sunday, we all have to improve.”
Continuing to look ahead to the Premier League clash with Liverpool, he added: “I always think that we are responsible for the fans’ participation in the game. It is our responsibility.
“If we play very, very well, very enthusiastic, the fans come to the pitch and play with us. When we didn’t play so well, with so much emotion and intensity, it is normal that the fans relax a little bit.
“We have amazing fans – I can only say fantastic things about them, especially because you see the real fans when the moment is not good, pushing us, supporting us. We have absolutely amazing fans.
“What I feel is that Sunday is a special match for us, a special match for the Manchester United fans – so my invitation is don’t come to the theatre, come to play with us.”
Mourinho said his team “played slow”, “complicated things” and “always had one more touch, one more second to delay the decision”, although he did admit that in terms of this having been a ninth straight win in all competitions for United, he “cannot ask more” of his players.
And he said: “In spite of a match against Reading (Saturday’s 4-0 FA Cup win) where we could rest some players, it is an accumulation of matches in this period.
“So only after Liverpool we are going to have a little space until we play Stoke away.
“But now we need one last effort. Let’s recover and focus on Sunday.”
Fellaini’s goal, his first of the season, came just over a month on from him giving away a penalty to allow his old club Everton to equalise in the 1-1 draw with United at Goodison Park.
The Belgian has been a divisive figure among United fans, even being jeered by some, but after his late header – which he celebrated by hugging Mourinho – he could hear his name being sung from the Old Trafford stands.
When asked about the midfielder, Mourinho said: “I’m here to support the players, especially the players in a difficult situation.
“But he has a very strong mentality, he coped well with the situation, he was not afraid the next match after Everton to go to the pitch again, and I think he played phenomenally against Reading.
“Scoring an important goal for us, he changed the dynamic and the empathy with the fans.
“But he is always supported by myself. He knows he is a very important player for me.”
Mourinho also said he expects striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, absent from the Hull game due to illness, to be available for Sunday’s match.
Hull are struggling in terms of player availability, to the extent that boss Marco Silva could only name a bench of six substitutes for what was his second match in charge.
And he felt the Tigers did well to cause United as many problems as they did.
Silva said: “We didn’t have all the players to prepare for this game. We had many problems to solve in the last days, and I am happy with our performance.
“Of course, I am not happy with the result, because I want more always for my team, but I’m happy with our performance.”
Silva – Mourinho’s fellow Portuguese – lost two players to injury during the game, with Markus Henriksen forced to depart the field early on due to a shoulder problem and Josh Tymon limping off towards the end.
And when asked for an update on that pair, he said: “Markus is maybe more serious. Tymon I think it was only one kick, nothing special.”
Silva was also asked whether Oumar Niasse might join Hull in time to play in their clash with Bournemouth on Saturday, with reports suggesting a fee has been agreed with Everton for the striker.
And he said: “We’ll see when it is possible for him to start training with us.”