Manchester United’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho lauded his players’ “beautiful football” after they overwhelmed West Ham United 4-1 to set up a League Cup semi-final date with Hull City.
United are toiling in the Premier League, where a run of four consecutive home draws has contributed to their worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1989.
But they produced some irresistible football against West Ham at Old Trafford on Wednesday, prevailing through a brace apiece from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Anthony Martial.
“I’m pleased with the goals because the performance is something that we are used to,” Mourinho told Sky Sports, before ducking his post-game press conference.
“We are playing very, very well at home and today was more of the same.
“After that goal (West Ham’s equaliser), we had 10 minutes where we felt it deeply and the players on the pitch could not hide that because West Ham’s first shot, they equalised.
“But in the second half the team got again the confidence to play and to win comfortably and play beautiful attacking football, which is something that the fans like. But we need results.”
Mourinho was not present in the dug-out, having earlier been given a one-game touchline ban for angrily booting a water bottle during United’s 1-1 draw with West Ham in the league on Sunday.
He could not be seen in the directors’ box and when asked where he had watched the game, he said it was a “secret”.
He had seen his side concede inside two minutes on Sunday, but here it was United who struck first as Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s deft back-heel released Ibrahimovic to beat West Ham goalkeeper Adrian.
Ashley Fletcher, who left United for West Ham in July, equalised in the 35th minute after David de Gea allowed Dimitri Payet’s shot to bounce away from him.
But Martial scored twice, confidently tucking away right-wing passes from Mkhitaryan and then Antonio Valencia, before Ander Herrera teed up Ibrahimovic for United’s fourth goal in stoppage time.
Herrera was freed by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who received a warm ovation from the Old Trafford faithful as he came on to make his first appearance since last season.
– Bilic counts cost –
Mourinho has softened his stance regarding the former Germany captain, who he had previously frozen out, and also saw Mkhitaryan produce another assured display on just his third United start.
Mkhitaryan shone in United’s recent 4-0 win over Feyenoord in the Europa League, but Mourinho was more pleased to see the former Borussia Dortmund star impress against domestic opposition.
“I’m so happy because today was against a Premier League team with Premier League qualities, with Premier League characteristics,” Mourinho said.
“That showed clearly his evolution because against Feyenoord we could think, ‘OK, it is a different profile of football.’
“But today was against a proper and typical Premier League team and Micky could perform this way. So I’m really happy.
“We know the reason why we bought him and we were waiting for his adaptation and it looks like it’s coming.”
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic professed himself “very disappointed” and said his team had paid the price for conceding early goals in both halves.
“You can’t have a slow start anywhere, especially not here,” said the Croatian.
“Because they’re good anyway, but especially when they’re 1-0 up and can play on the counter-attack.
“At half-time we said we can’t allow them to do it again, but it was exactly the same at the start of the second half.”
Bilc lost wing-backs Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio to injury and said both players would be assessed on Thursday.
“(Cresswell) told me when he was coming off that he felt his groin was tight. He didn’t pull anything, so hopefully it’s not a major injury,” said Bilic, whose side host Arsenal this weekend.
“A couple of days’ rest and I hope he’ll be ready for Saturday. With Antonio we still don’t know.”