I really like the way they played, I just feel sorry that they have a game on Wednesday and because of that they couldn’t play the whole game with the best team. —Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on RSL
SANDY — Real Salt Lake's 1-2 loss to Manchester United Monday was billed as a friendly match, but took a turn for the worse when United midfielder Antonio Valencia was taken off with a red card.
In the 68th minute, Valencia slid hard into the back of RSL's Sebastian Saucedo's legs, sending the midfielder sprawling onto the ground and needing trainer assistance to later limp off the field.
United's coach, Jose Mourinho, said referee Allen Chapman originally asked him, because the team had unlimited substitutions, to replace Valencia on the pitch with another player. When he refused to do so, Chapman had no choice but to pull out the late card.
It would have been easy for Mourinho to be angry at his then-captain, but Saucedo had been tangled up with United midfielder Juan Mata earlier in the match, injuring Mata enough to be taken off the field as a precaution.
Mourinho did not say Saucedo had it coming, but rather than play safe in the friendly, he thought Saucedo was a bit wild.
"I don’t agree with the card because Saucedo, the boy was really aggressive doing all the second half, what happened to Mata, and some other actions where it was a bit dangerous," he said.
"You come here with the mentality of a friendly match, and in the end you find yourself in a different mentality."
Though complimentary of the starting lineup RSL played for the first part of the game, Mourinho was critical of the play of not just Saucedo, but the numerous substitutes RSL threw out at different points throughout the game.
RSL's starting unit was able to strike first on a Luis Silva goal in the 23rd minute. For the first half hour, the two teams looked evenly-matched and played quality soccer. However, United's coach seemed to think the game devolved from that point on.
"I really like the way they played, I just feel sorry that they have a game on Wednesday and because of that they couldn’t play the whole game with the best team," Mourinho said.
RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman even said at a halftime press conference, long after he and the other starters were subbed out, that the team, rather than just sitting back and enjoying the game, had taken the mindset of going out to win.
Whether RSL's late-game players were playing too dangerously or were over-anxious to perform well against one of the world's top teams, United's coach was a little perturbed by their performance.
However, what a positive Manchester team was able to take away from the game was the first goal by newly-acquired striker Romelu Lukaku, who slotted the eventual winner in the 38th minute.
Mourinho downplayed the significance of the goal, saying the statistic did not matter as much as his overall contribution to the team.
"Before he scored the goal I told him, ‘I love everything you do on the pitch. Don’t be worried about scoring or not scoring, because it’s not important,'" he said.
However, the strike was one of many United hopes the 24-year-old Belgian can put away as the heir apparent to longtime captain Wayne Rooney, who signed with Everton recently.
Mourinho, who coached at English-rival Chelsea prior to taking the job at Manchester United, coached Lukaku during his brief stint with the club and said that they way he has developed should lead to great things in the near future.
"He’s now a top striker, and the goal is just a detail,” he said.