Football

After beating City, Jose now wants to catch them

Mourinho challenges his team to take the fight to Guardiola's side next season

After playing party-poopers to Manchester City yesterday morning (Singapore time), Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho challenged his team to be worthy of their own coronation party next season.

United secured a thrilling 3-2 away win at the Etihad Stadium, despite going into the half-time break lucky to be just 2-0 down.

City captain Vincent Kompany put the home side ahead with a header from a corner after just 25 minutes before Ilkay Guendogan doubled their advantage five minutes later with a lovely swivel and strike.

But the second half proved a different story as Paul Pogba struck twice in three minutes to set up an exciting finish.

Chris Smalling, who was at fault for Kompany's opener, grabbed United's winner, side-footing an Alexis Sanchez cross past Ederson, in the process ensuring City did not seal their English Premier League title triumph with a win against their bitter rivals.

But Mourinho insisted that his objective was not to rain on City's parade. He said: "My objective here was to get points and not spoil any celebrations.

"The point is can we improve enough to catch them next season?

"Next season we have to improve even more because this season we improved in relation to last season: more points, more victories, more goals scored, less goals conceded, better results against the top five teams. We improve at every level, but it was not enough."

Pogba, meanwhile, felt that if his team played like they did in the second half, it would be United at the top of the table, instead of their local rivals.

Said the French midfielder: "After a second half like this, we have to do that all the time. If we did, we would be up there with City, and maybe even in front...

"If they won, they are champions, for all the fans it would be like death.

"To lose against City and to see them celebrate, I couldn't let that happen. At half-time in the dressing room we said we have nothing to lose."

Besides having nothing to lose, match-winner Smalling explained that they walked out to the pitch for the second half having been told by Mourinho that they wouldn't want to be clowns at City's post-match title party.

He said: "The first half was terrible, we dropped off, didn't play our game, and they could have been out of sight.

"He (Mourinho) said that we didn't want to be the clowns standing there watching them get their title.

"City have been fantastic here all season, but we stepped up and won the game."

That step-up in performance should be a benchmark for next season, said former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness. He told Sky Sports: "They put a marker down today, for next season most definitely.

"They were dogged and determined and came back from being on the ropes big time to beat Man City, and they've shown other teams how to do it."

One team that needs no lessons on how to stop City are Liverpool, who have beaten them in two of their three matches this season.

The final meeting between the sides will take place on Wednesday morning, with the Reds holding a dominant 3-0 lead in their Champions League quarter-final.

Former United stalwart Gary Neville believes City have been "rumbled" by conceding three times in consecutive matches.

He told Sky Sports: "What we saw in the second half was not a capitulation by Manchester City, but it was certainly them being rumbled. They were rumbled at Anfield on Wednesday night and they've been rumbled in the second half here today.

"My biggest thought after this game is: 'How do Manchester City recover for Tuesday night to even given them a chance against Liverpool?'"

Football