Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera has thrown his full support behind coach Jose Mourinho and said criticism that he is prone to play defensively against the big clubs does not “reflect the truth.”
United drew 0-0 at Liverpool last month, a result that led to some questioning of Mourinho’s defensive-minded tactics, and then lost 1-0 at Chelsea on Nov. 5. But on Saturday, as Paul Pogba returned from a hamstring injury, they beat Newcastle 4-1, leading Herrera to tell BeINSPORTS they are being unfairly judged.
He said: “If you look at Manchester United’s statistics, until three weeks ago, we had scored the same number of goals as Manchester City had and we were the second-highest goalscoring team in the league.
“Many times the tags in football are needed from a journalistic standpoint but they don’t reflect the truth, not in Mourinho’s case.
“Last year, we won three titles having the majority of possession in most of the games and creating more [goalscoring] chances than our opponents.
“It’s impossible to win three titles in a given season being defensive, it’s just impossible.”
In Mourinho’s first season in charge, United won the EFL Cup, the Community Shield and the Europa League.
Herrera believes that even before Mourinho’s arrival to Old Trafford, his career proved he was not too defensive-minded.
“You just have to see Mourinho’s track record,” he added. “Before he arrived at United, he had achieved a record of [La Liga] points at Real Madrid [in the 2011-12 campaign], and if I’m not mistaken the club that had scored then the most number of goals [in La Liga in the 2011-12 campaign].
“He then went to Chelsea and won the league [2014-15 campaign] with a big point difference over their nearest rivals and also with a high goalscoring ratio.”
Herrera believes Mourinho’s “defensive” tag goes back to his days at Real Madrid, whom he coached from 2010 until his return to Chelsea in 2013.
“In football we all tend to put labels,” Herrera said. “At that time, there was and still is that duality between Real Madrid and Barcelona and we had to put a tag and he got the defensive one and the other [Pep Guardiola] the offensive one. People thought that but that is just not the case.”
United’s win at the weekend lifted them to second in the Premier League standings, eight points adrift of Manchester City.
Mourinho’s side play Basel on Wednesday in the Champions League but are already through to the round of 16 after a perfect start to the competition.
Herrera, who was voted United’s Player of the Year for his performances last season, is not looking too far ahead in that competition.
“As a club, we have the duty not to renounce to anything, to fight for every title,” he said. “But it wouldn’t be fair on us or the club to have the obligation to win the Champions League yet.
“We are coming from the Europa League, it’s true that we won that last season, but we didn’t finish in the top four of the domestic league despite winning the FA Cup [in the 2015-16] the previous year.
“Last season, we finished sixth in the league and we won three titles and although it was a successful campaign, it wouldn’t be fair to have the duty to win the Champions League this season.
“I can assure the fans that we are going to give our all, so that the jersey and emblem that we defend, competes in Europe and in the Champions League for as long as possible.
“So far we’ve done well. We are among the few teams [Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City] in the Champions League to have taken 12 points in four rounds.”