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Mourinho finds reason to smile

LONDON: Jose Mourinho has admitted Manchester United lacked second-half “ambition” as his side narrowly secured victory over a spirited West Bromwich Albion side at The Hawthorns. Goals from Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard in a dominant first half secured a vital three points for the visitors.
“We had less ambition after the break. The intensity in the first half, maybe we didn’t have in the second half. West Brom are really powerful in the air. But after their goal we controlled the game again. We brought the ball into the opposition half,” the Portuguese said of his team’s second interval performance.
“I think we deserved the win. We were the best team. I knew, and the players knew, that West Brom are very dangerous on set-pieces. We controlled the game for a long, long time, then Alan Pardew reacted. We had a few chances to kill the game but I knew they would react,” he added.
United were under pressure to produce a winning display after title rivals Manchester City had thrashed Tottenham 4-1 the day before and the win keeps Mourinho’s men 11 points behind the runaway leaders.
Lukaku, criticized for several below-par performances in recent weeks, repaid his manager’s faith with a battling performance and a neat header to open the scoring for his side after a lacklustre start to proceedings. It was his 31st goal in 39 Premier League appearances against sides outside the “top six”.
United were aided by a poor defensive display in the first period from West Brom, who saw Ahmed Hegazi deflect a tame shot from Lingard past his own goalkeeper to put the visitors 2-0 up and in complete control at the half-time break.
West Brom, much improved after the interval,w were given hope when Gareth Barry pulled a goal back for the hosts in an ugly scramble to poke home the club’s first goal under Pardew and his first for Albion. United were left hanging on as the home side had a penalty shout turned down and came close on several occasions in the final moments but were unable to force a late equalizer.
Albion manager Pardew admitted afterwards that he made team selection errors with his starting XI: “In hindsight, I probably picked the wrong team and we could have had some fresher legs in there. We lacked energy and I have to take some blame for that.”