(Reuters) - Jose Mourinho looked back on a Manchester United triumph that befitted a great club’s finest traditions of heart and spirit on Saturday and declared that the comeback win which denied Manchester City the title showed why they deserved more respect.
The United boss and his club were staring at potential humiliation at halftime in their neighbours’ jubilant den, after being hopelessly outclassed at 2-0 down and looking bereft of ideas at how to stop Pep Guardiola’s side running rings round them.
Yet, after an astonishing resurgence led by a previously somnolent Paul Pogba scoring twice and Chris Smalling volleying the winner in the 3-2 win, Mourinho was quick to reflect on the criticism he and his side have received this season.
Often subject to unflattering comparisons with Guardiola’s dazzling team and their expansive approach, Mourinho evidently felt this was the moment for the critics to give United their proper due.
“We deserve a bit more respect than people give,” he told the BBC.
“I think we are a bit better that what people think. The players are a bit better than what people think and I am a bit better than what people think.
“We’re not as bad as people say we are. What we will try to prove is that we’re the second best team in the country.”
His United side had handed out City’s first league defeat at the Etihad since December 2016 when Chelsea won there and the victory leaves them in a powerful position to finish second in the league.
They are now four points ahead of third-placed Liverpool and fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur yet Mourinho, whose relations with Guardiola have not always been so cordial, was happy to acknowledge how his rival had fashioned worthy champions-elect.
“Of course they (City) are frustrated because they wanted to do it today, but I congratulate them for the title because they are going to win — and deservedly,” Mourinho said.
“They deserve the title because they don’t give anyone else a chance.”
He reckoned he had not been interested in playing the role of ultimate party-pooper but just wanted the three crucial points to help ensure Champions League football next season.
“We did not come here today to top their party. Our challenge is to finish second and this was a very important result for us because we needed mathematically six points to finish in the top four,” said Mourinho.
Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Christian Radnedge