Mile Svilar became the youngest keeper to start in the Champions League but his big night was ruined as his blunder gave United a 1-0 victory
This was a regulation Manchester United victory pulled straight out of the Jos Mourinho playbook. His side were uneven yet in Marcus Rashford had a player of elevated class who dragged United to three consecutive victories in Group A with a secondhalf winner.
Mourinho endured criticism after the goalless draw at Liverpool on Saturday, yet their nine points in this competition have come at the cost of only one goal.
Sometimes I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results, he said. We are one point from qualifying and one victory away from winning the group with two games at home to play. A good game, solid.
Asked if he felt United were unfairly maligned for their defensive solidity, Mourinho said: With other managers with other players, Im pretty sure that yes [they get an easier ride than me]. But thats not the problem for us and there is another situation maybe Im guilty of, I never speak about injuries. Other managers cry and cry and cry I dont cry.
Rashford limped off on 76 minutes though Mourinho is hopeful his knee injury is only minor. The manager has Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic ruled out with their respective injuries, while a concern will be that Eric Bailly, who was unable to play on Wednesday because of injury, is likely to miss the trip to Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Meanwhile, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw are still to feature since recovering from their fitness problems.
Of managing the injury toll, Mourinho said: The way to do it is ignore the players who are injured, give confidence to the players are available, I can cry for the next five minutes. Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Fellaini, Marcos Rojo: I can cry but I dont so we do it with what we have. We went to Liverpool with two midfield players and nothing else. We brought the kid today like Benfica does, I have no other solution, I brought [teenager] Scott McTominay, who is the same age as the Benfica kids. But the Premier League is a different story. Twelve matches, 10 victories, two draws, nine clean sheets. We are not bad.
Mourinho was referencing Mile Svilar, who became the youngest goalkeeper to start in the Champions League, but was caught out of position by Rashford from a 65th-minute free-kick on the left. The United striker promptly hit the ball over Svilar and though the 18-year-old keeper backtracked he failed to keep it from crossing the line to gift the visitors victory.
There was better news as Phil Jones, who suffered a problem while on England duty and so was an unused replacement, should be fit for Huddersfield. Phil Jones to be on the bench he was feeling that in case of real need he would help us, so if he was in that stage today, on Saturday he will be in conditions to play, Mourinho said. Bailly I dont think so. Rashford I thought it was cramps because he was running so much, it was about muscular fatigue, but he felt something in his knee but to me it doesnt look a big thing.
On a night when a toothless Benfica could not even muster one shot on target having been thrashed 5-0 by Basel in their last match, United also struggled to create opportunities but victory in the return match at Old Trafford would assure their passage to the last-16 for the first time since 2014 with two games to spare.
Its not a match where I have one more white hair, because everything was calm, in control, said Mourinho. We felt since the beginning that we couldnt lose the match, that a point would be a positive result for us. They went from top to bottom we went the opposite way during the match. They lost intensity, they lost pressure, they lost control, and we were totally in control from minute 20 until the end of the game. It was not magic, but it was a solid performance. We have nine points and are almost there [to the knockout round].
We are happy, we have nine points, won the match, didnt concede goals, the game was calm, team was compact, control and almost there, I think one more point to qualify maybe a victory to finish first, so all good.
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