MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - After two weeks in which his team - and his tactics - have come under scrutiny, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho could perhaps be excused for the ‘fingers to the lips’ gesture at the conclusion of Saturday’s 1-0 win against Tottenham.
He was criticised for his defensive tactics in the goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield two weeks ago and then question marks were raised following United’s shock defeat by promoted Huddersfield Town.
On Saturday, the disgruntled reaction from his own fans when he took off Marcus Rashford in the 70th minute was perhaps not what Mourinho expected.
The boos from parts of the stands were certainly no reflection of the ability of substitute Anthony Martial but were a questioning of Mourinho’s choice of who to take off the field.
Rashford had looked lively and sharp while his strike partner Romelu Lukaku, who is beginning to attract some grumbles from the United fans, had little to show for his efforts.
Whatever the merits of Mourinho’s decision, the end result was that - after Lukaku headed against the post, he provided the flick on to Martial for the 81st minute winner.
Asked about his gesture to the cameras, Mourinho said it had nothing to do with the Spurs bench or his counter-part Mauricio Pochettino and suggested it was aimed at his critics.
“Some people speak too much, calm down, relax a little bit,” he said.
“Don’t speak too much, speak, speak, speak, relax. Relax a little bit, don’t be so nervous. Don’t be so excited,” he said.
United may have failed their first real test of the season by playing with such little adventure in their draw at Anfield a fortnight ago and they looked strangely out of sorts at Huddersfield last week but in their first home game against a ‘big six’ opponent, they showed they have the necessary staying power.
“I like a lot of performances independent of the result,” Mourinho said.
“If the result is 0-0 or 1-1 my feelings with the players and the team would be the same because they gave absolutely everything, every ball was like the most important ball of their career.
“The concentration and focus was there and we cannot forget the quality of the team we were playing against,” he said.
“That was difficult, it could have been a draw. Both teams were trying to win but both knew the opponent was strong.
“We knew if we had one defensive mistake we could lose and that’s what happened to them. We tried and we deserved the victory.”
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar