LONDON • Jose Mourinho reached deep into his book of justification after Manchester United was overtaken in the Sunday derby to drop 12 points for leaders in Premier League Manchester City.
For almost every observer at the Etihad Stadium, the game was dominated by the city, but United manager saw things differently.
Although his side was the only shot at the target, Anthony Martial's penalty was transferred in response to the targets by David Silva and Sergio Aguero, he refused that the score of 3-1 reflected the superiority of the city.
"If the third goal is scored in one of the moments when they dominated, I would probably say it, but it will come when we were in the fight to get the equalizer," the Portuguese insisted.
It was insurmountable that United did not deliver "negative performance" and that the game was "open for 80 minutes".
He also said that the previous matches in Bournemouth and Juventus made his players no favors, unlike the city that had it relatively easier with home games against Southampton and Shakhtar.
"We play two difficult games where the second was a final against one of the best teams in Europe where we put everything physically and mentally," added Mourinho, who also said the absence of injured Paul Pogby hurt his chances.
"For various reasons we missed Paul … we had to play (Marouane) Fellaini and he was not ready to play in 90 minutes. I can imagine when the result was 2-1, bring fresh Fellaini, be in big, big trouble."
Still, it felt like Mourinho, whose party had only 34% ownership and five shots in the city of 16, caught on straw. That was a type of performance that became a matter of routine, and if anything, United set off quite easily after City improved the pace with the remaining four minutes and put together a 44-step move that ended with Ilkay Gundogan.
With nearly three-thirds of the season gone, and three goals on average, the city threatens the eclipse of league records – 106 goals, 32 victories, 100 points – set in last season, though Pep Guardiola, sometimes a perfectionist, was not entirely satisfied.
"The first half, not so good," said the city's director. "We played like" I do not want to lose the ball, "but not to attack.
"Still, we were stable, we were so good for the first 15 minutes and then we were impatiently pushing in. They could play more than usual, but in the second half we start much, much better from the start."
The Spaniard also touched on City Rahe Sterling's showboating at the moment of dying.
His followers upset the angry reaction from middle midfielder Juan Mata and Guardiola confronts England international in the final whistle of his behavior.
"He did some moves with his feet, we can avoid it, but he's young and will improve," the manager said.
THE GUARDIAN, TIMES, LONDON