Manchester United stretched their unbeaten run to 11 games in all competitions with a 3-1 Premier League home win over Sunderland but their coach Jose Mourinho was not entirely happy with Monday’s performance at a festive Old Trafford.
United survived several scares in an end-to-end opening period before Dutch defender Daley Blind fired them ahead with a powerful 39th-minute strike for his first goal of the season.
“I didn’t like the first half performance. I like the result,” Mourinho said after late strikes from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan sealed his team’s win.
“I liked very much the second half. I was expecting us to start much better. (In the) second half we had everything back, the intensity to recover the ball high and play fast passes.”
Ibrahimovic, who teed up Blind for the opener, continued his rich vein of form by scoring the second and setting up the third for Mkhitaryan, who netted with a spectacular backheel effort although television replays showed he was marginally offside.
It was Ibrahimovic’s 17th goal of the season in all competitions while Mkhitaryan returned to action with aplomb after sitting out the last two weeks with an ankle injury.
Fabio Borini drove in a dipping 90th-minute volley to give Sunderland fans something to cheer, but it was scant consolation for the Black Cats who stayed in the relegation zone.
It was an unhappy first return to Old Trafford for former United boss David Moyes, who endured a torrid 10-month stint at the club before he was sacked in 2014.
Mourinho, however, praised Sunderland’s effort.
“I know David Moyes and Sunderland deserved credit for what they did in the first half,” he said.
”The good performances we had for quite some time. Finally we have the good results, four victories and 12 points in a row.
“The players know the principles of how we play and they are comfortable but we need to improve.”
Moyes conceded Sunderland were headed for a bitter relegation battle.
”We are going to have to try and galvanise from within,“ he said. ”It is not a situation I am used to but some of the players are. I hope we can find a way.
“I think we are optimistic because we have got a couple of results.”
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic,; Editing by Ed Osmond