Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho hailed his defensive midfielders, Ander Herrera and Matteo Darmian, for a “special performance” after the 2-0 Premier League win over his former club Chelsea on Sunday opened up the title race.”I think it was a special performance because it was a special opponent, the leaders, the way they play. I think we played really well, a very solid performance,” said Mourinho.”We gave them double problems — problems when we had the ball and problems when we recovered the ball because we were really sharp and fast and aggressive in our transitions. I am very happy,” he said after the victory at Old Trafford.Mourinho added that the key to beating Chelsea, whose lead over second-placed London rivals Tottenham Hotspur is just four points, was eliminating the threat they posed through Eden Hazard and Pedro working behind Diego Costa and also their effectiveness in wide positions on the counter-attack.Spanaird Herrera, who got the second goal after 49 minutes following Marcus Rashford’s early opener, did a masterful job man-marking Hazard while Italian Darmian kept Pedro quiet, with the result that Chelsea did not manage a single shot on target.”Maybe it is difficult for some managers to find Ander Herrera to do the job he did today. Maybe it is difficult for some to find Matteo Darmian to play the role he played.”I want to say I was convinced even before (the defeat by Chelsea in February’s FA) Cup match that controlling the two players that play behind Diego (Costa) and controlling the full-backs, because they go really deep with two wide men, would create lots of problems and I repeat the same,” said Mourinho.advertisement”They are phenomenal in (the) counter-attack. When they tried to play counter-attack we were always in control of these two link positions,” he added.The win extends fifth-placed United’s unbeaten league run to 22 games and keeps them in the hunt for a Champions League spot with Mourinho seeing signs of progress from his squad.”Normally you win the title if you are 22 matches unbeaten and we are struggling to finish top four,” he said, with United four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.”Everybody knows why – it is because we drew too many matches at home and we are paying the price. But it is a great feeling to know it is difficult for us to lose a match. We fight until the end.”We need a little more quality and different qualities in some positions to make the squad stronger, but in terms of character and the human side I have one of the best groups ever,” said the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan manager.
Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has called on Team India, who are on a high after their thumping 124-run win over arch-rivals Pakistan in their Champions Trophy opener, to not get complacent against Sri Lanka in their Thursday’s fixture.The Men in Blue would be brimming with confidence after they thrashed Pakistan by 124 runs (D/L method) at Edgbaston on Sunday and would go into their match against Sri Lanka at the Oval to be played on Thursday as clear favourites. (Also Read: Virat Kohli happy to see opposition intimidated by Indian bowling)On the other hand, Sri Lanka find themselves in a do-or-die situation after being thrashed by South Africa in their opening match. (Also Read: Virat Kohli proud of “trusting, transparent” dressing-room)”The Men in Blue should also be wary of the complacency factor. On a high after the 124-run win over Pakistan, Virat Kohli and his side must not let the intensity levels down. India just needs to get the basics right. I expect the top order as well as Kohli and Yuvraj Singh to take off from where they left in Birmingham,” Singh wrote in his column for the International Cricket Council (ICC). (Also Read: Virat Kohli reveals why Mohammed Shami didn’t play vs Pakistan)”Given the form that India is in, it is likely to emerge winner even if it plays to 70 per-cent potential. But let’s just hope the players give it their all,” he added.Stand-in skipper Upul Tharanga would not be playing against India and the veteran off-spinner feels his absence will hurt the islanders the most.advertisement”To lose a player to suspension is a setback in itself. When the said player happens to be your captain, the team’s misery only gets compounded. Upul Tharanga’s two-game suspension for over-rate offences is bound to hurt the team as it prepares to take on a pumped-up India at The Oval in London on Thursday,” said Singh.”The islanders do not boast a great team, and Tharanga’s absence will hurt them immensely. With first-choice captain Angelo Mathews injured, it was left to Tharanga to stand in for him but now he has left a void. Let’s not forget the upcoming game is extremely crucial from Sri Lanka’s point of view because the team has already lost to South Africa and faces a must-win situation against the defending champion,” he added.The 36-year-old opined that if Rain Gods keep away from the game and the encounters turns out to be a full 50-over game then Sri Lanka would not be able to trouble India.”If it ends up being a 50-overs-a-side game, then I don’t see Sri Lanka troubling India at all,” he said.”However, if the match is reduced to a 20-20 or a 30-overs-a-side game due to the vagaries of the weather, then the match could go either way. Needless to say, dealing with the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method is not easy,” he added.