Three days before the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham, and in the aftermath of Sunday’s pathetic defeat by West Brom, a drama-free win is enough for Manchester United. That is what they achieved thanks to goals by Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku. The result tightens their hold on second place in the Premier League and raises spirits, at least a little, before they resume their pursuit of the only trophy they can win this season.
José Mourinho, for one, was encouraged by the improvement he saw from his side, hailing a “good collective performance, with good responsibility and a great attitude”. But he regretted that his players have not always shown those qualities this season. “I spoke with them about that [after the defeat by West Brom],” Mourinho said. “We are inconsistent many times in our attitude. With our top five opponents, we didn’t lose any points. We lost and won against City, Spurs and Chelsea and won and drew against Liverpool. But we lost against Huddersfield and Newcastle. And we lost points against teams that are probably going to get relegated. So I think we were not consistent. And you pay the price.”