Under-pressure Mourinho defends Martial move after loss to West Ham

José Mourinho’s position as Manchester United coach is in jeopardy. (AFP pic)

LONDON: José Mourinho defended his decision to play Anthony Martial instead of Alexis Sánchez after a 3-1 loss away to West Ham on Saturday condemned Manchester United to a third defeat in seven Premier League games – their worst start to a domestic campaign in nearly 30 years.

United have 10 points from seven league games. The last time they started worse was in 1989/90, though they also collected just 10 points in the first seven games of David Moyes’ ill-fated reign. This latest reverse added to the pressure on under-fire coach Mourinho.

“For many months people are asking for Martial,” Mourinho told BT Sport about his choice of attackers. “This week it was time to agree and to say let’s give a chance to Martial and let’s leave Alexis out.”

United, who kicked off eight points adrift of leaders Liverpool, were behind as early as the fifth minute at the London Stadium, when Felipe Anderson opened the scoring for West Ham.

They were 2-0 down before half-time when Andriy Yarmalenko’s shot from inside the box deflected off Victor Lindelöf for an own goal.

Barely 60 seconds after midfielder Paul Pogba, whose stand-off with Mourinho during a training session earlier this week featured heavily on social media, was substituted, United cut the deficit through Marcus Rashford’s 71st-minute goal.

But hopes this might spark a major recovery by the visitors were soon dashed when Marko Arnautović, who played under Mourinho at Inter Milan, restored the Hammers’ two-goal lead three minutes later.

Mourinho said West Ham’s first goal had been offside but admitted United had not been “aggressive” enough in defence in the lead-up to the Hammers’ second before adding the referee was at fault prior to Arnautović’s strike for not penalising a foul on Rashford.

“We are not aggressive and intense enough to close that shot,” Mourinho said when asked about the Lindelof own goal. An offside goal and an own goal.”

The Portuguese boss added: “The third goal killed our mentality because the referee did not see the foul before.”

Nevertheless, Mourinho insisted: “I have no complaints with the players’ attitude. You have always to try, that’s my nature as a football professional.”

Meanwhile, West Ham’s victory saw them continue to climb the table after starting the season with four straight league defeats under new coach Manuel Pellegrini.

Arnautović was in no doubt the Hammers had earned their victory.

“We have to do our job and we did it excellently, and that is why we deserved to win,” he said.

As for Mourinho, Arnautović added: “I have nothing to say. I look at my team, whatever the other team is doing is not our stuff.”