Jose Mourinho was not surprised by the way his players blew their chance to impress and secure Manchester United top spot in their Champions League group.
The Portuguese made eight changes for Wednesday’s match at Valencia, with knockout phase progress already assured, injuries taking their toll and the weekend trip to rivals Liverpool looming large.
However, United knew victory at the Mestalla would see them top Group H in the unlikely event that Juventus slipped up in Switzerland, but Mourinho’s men failed to do their bit as the improbable played out at Young Boys.
The Serie A giants lost 2-1 at the same time that United fell by the same scoreline in Spain, where a Carlos Soler strike and Phil Jones own goal meant substitute Marcus Rashford’s late strike was just a consolation effort.
None of those brought in did themselves any favours, so it was little wonder that Mourinho looked at the end of his tether and offered the response of “not pleased” in a brusque start to the press conference.
“I think that to qualify in this group is a success,” the United boss said. “Never a failure. To finish second in this group is always a success.
“Before the game I told the players that if we win tonight and Juventus win, we did our job.
“If we don’t win and Juventus doesn’t win, we can blame ourselves.
“I don’t think the draw finishing first or second – apart from a couple of clubs that are clearly much better than the others – I don’t think the draw will be significantly different…
“But I expect (better) from my players, especially players that week in, week out, you ask me ‘why don’t they play?’, ‘why they don’t they start?’
“(It) was a good match to play, a match without any kind of pressure, a match in a competition that everybody likes to play.
“And, in the end, my team improved, really, when I made the changes that I didn’t want to make, which is a little bit of frustration because I didn’t want to play the three players that I played in the second half.”
Ashley Young replaced the injured Marcos Rojo after a torrid first half, while Rashford came on for summer signing Fred and Jesse Lingard was brought on for Romelu Lukaku.
Paul Pogba failed to shine after starting the last two matches on the bench, while Eric Bailly and Andreas Pereira also struggled to make an impact.
Asked if he had learned anything about his players, Mourinho retorted: “No, maybe you did. Not me.
“I didn’t learn anything from this game. Anything. Nothing that happened surprised me at all.”
It was a cutting response from Mourinho, whose squad players’ performances at the Mestalla only reinforced long-standing opinions.
The United boss confirmed that Nemanja Matic and David De Gea were the only players rested for the trip to Spain.
“If this match was a match to decide the group, it would be a very similar team,” Mourinho said.
“That’s the reality. So, when sometimes you analyse Manchester United and you speak about our ambitions and speak about our level, sometimes you should learn the situation a little bit better because you make certain kind of comments.”