Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho last night put his club’s humbling EFL Cup exit at the hands of Championship promotion contenders Bristol City down to luck.
Mourinho spoke out after the Premier League club’s defence of the EFL Cup was ended in dramatic fashion at Ashton Gate when a goal in the third and final minute of stoppage time from Korey Smith gave City a famous win.
A pitch invasion followed Smith’s goal which settled a quarter-final tie which seemed to be heading towards extra time after Joe Bryan’s stunning 51st minute goal was quickly cancelled out by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s free-kick.
“When a Premier League team loses to a team from a lower division, normally it is because the performance was not good but it was not bad, honestly,” Mourinho said.
“It was not very good but it was not such a bad performance that I can come here and be very critical of my players. I prefer to give credit to Bristol.
“I studied their team. I made my players aware of their qualities. I think they were lucky. Before it went 1-0 we had two shots that hit their post an after it was 1-1 we the domination of the game and had the best of the chances.
“And then they scored the goal in a moment when we had no chance to fight back so they were lucky but they fought very hard and they are a very good team.
“So instead of being critical of my players, I prefer to praise Bristol City.”
Mourinho did his best to be magnanimous in defeat but hinted that his team, which featured Paul Pogba following his return to action following a three-match ban, was out-fought.
“We didn’t want extra time and we wanted to try to win the game in the 90 minutes which is why I said they were lucky but they fought to be lucky,” Mourinho added.
“Sometimes you think that luck comes from nowhere but normally luck comes from effort and belief which they had.
“It was a big night for them. Probably for some of my players it was not a big night. It was just one more day in the office.
“When you play against teams with an extra motivation you need also that extra motivation. Congratulations to them.”
Victorious Bristol City manager Lee Johnson, who spent £450 on a bottle of Portuguese win for Mourinho, can now look forward to pitting his wits against Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola in the semi-finals.
“It’s a brilliant draw but first and foremost we have to get over the overwhelming feeling of feeling proud. They were absolutely outstanding and to beat Manchester United at home is incredible.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet but I’m so proud of the players. They are a special group, and for the supporters it’s been a long time for a result like that, especially here. I’m chuffed to bits.
“I have to thank Jose for the game and the words he had with me but we move on. We wanted to win, we showed bite, we didn’t show United too much respect.
“Now it’s on to another big one over two legs and another chance for the players to test themselves against elite players.”