Jose Mourinho refused to make Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard derby day scapegoats after Manchester United slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Manchester City at Old Trafford.
Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho got the goals as City dominated the first half, although an error from debutant goalkeeper Claudio Bravo allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to haul the hosts back into the contest.
Mkhitaryan, making his first start for United, and the recalled Lingard were hauled off at the break and United performed better with Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford on in their place.
“It was not just about them. Other players were also not playing really well,” Mourinho told a post-match news conference after United lost their 100 per cent record to fall three points behind early season Premier League leaders City.
“Obviously, it was my decision. I don’t like to go in the direction of the players and single out players.
“Let’s say our team didn’t play well in the first half and the responsibility is my responsibility.”
Pre-match, Mourinho said he included Mkhitaryan and Lingard in anticipation of City boss Pep Guardiola trying to bring his full-backs into midfield as he has done during the opening weeks of the season, but the tactic did not emerge during a pulsating contest.
“They respected our capacity to attack through the wings,” Mourinho said. “They thought about [Antonio] Valencia, they thought about Luke Shaw, they thought about our wingers. They didn’t do that.
“They brought [John] Stones into that space a few times. So we didn’t have a tactical problem; we had a problem with poor performances – giving the ball away very, very easy.
“Our central defenders, who were top class until today, they lost easy balls. Bad, bad passes from [Eric] Bailly to [Marouane] Fellaini, from [Daley] Blind to [Paul] Pogba. We lost the ball in these kind of positions.
“So it was not just Mkhi and Jesse. It was much more than Mkhi and Jesse.”