LONDON – Jose Mourinho defended his decision to play Anthony Martial instead Alexis Sanchez after a 3-1 loss away to West Ham on Saturday condemned Manchester United to a third defeat in seven Premier League games – their worst start to a domestic campaign in nearly 30 years.
United have 10 points from seven league games, the last time they started worse was in 1989/90, in the old First Division, though they also collected just 10 points in the first seven games of David Moyes' ill-fated reign. This latest reverse added to the pressure on under-fire manager Mourinho.
"For many months people are asking for Martial," Mourinho told BT Sport about his choice of attackers. "This week it was time to agree and to say let's give a chance to Martial and let's leave Alexis out."
United, who kicked off eight points adrift of leaders Liverpool, were behind as early as the fifth minute at the London Stadium, when Anderson opened the scoring for West Ham.
And they were 2-0 down before half-time when Andriy Yarmalenko's shot from inside the box deflected off Victor Lindelof for an own-goal.
Barely 60 seconds after midfielder Paul Pogba – whose stand-off with Mourinho during a training session earlier this week featured heavily on social media –was substituted, United cut the deficit through Marcus Rashford's 71st-minute goal.
But hopes this might spark a major recovery by the visitors were soon dashed when Marko Arnautovic – who played under Mourinho at Inter Milan –restored the Hammers' two-goal lead three minutes later.
Mourinho said West Ham's first goal had been offside but admitted United had not been "aggressive" enough in defence in the lead-up to the Hammers' second before adding the referee was at fault prior to Arnautovic's strike for not penalising a foul on Rashford.
"We are not aggressive and intense enough to close that shot," Mourinho said when asked about the Lindelof own-goal. An offside goal and an own goal."
The Portuguese boss added: "The third goal killed our mentality because the referee did not see the foul before."
Nevertheless, Mourinho insisted: "I have no complaints with the players' attitude. You have always to try, that's my nature as a football professional."
However, former United defender Rio Ferdinand accused Mourinho's men of a lack of effort and said questions remained over the former Chelsea manager's future at Old Trafford.
"As a footballer your DNA is about hard work and effort," said Ferdinand, now a pundit with BT Sport. "I didn't see that today," added the former England centre-half, who began his career at West Ham.
And a concerned Ferdinand insisted: "There are some big decisions to be made at United now. There will be conversations at the top level, about the future of the manager and the squad, because the basics are not being done. There has to be something said."
Victory saw West Ham continue to climb the table after starting the season with four straight league defeats under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Arnautovic was in no doubt the Hammers had earned their victory.
"We have to do our job and we did it excellently, and that is why we deserved to win," he said.
As for Mourinho, Arnautovic added: "I have nothing to say. I look at my team, whatever the other team is doing is not our stuff."