Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho took aim at his critics after his side moved to the brink of qualifying for the Champions League knockout phase with victory over Benfica in Lisbon.
In-form forward Marcus Rashford scored the only goal of the game in the second-half as his 35-yard free-kick embarrassed rookie Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar, who carried the ball over his own goalline.
The win maintained United’s perfect start to their European campaign and they sit pretty at the top of Group A, three points clear of FC Basel, who beat CSKA Moscow 2-0. The Reds are six points ahead of the Russian outfit, who are third.
United’s clean sheet was their ninth in all competitions this term, and Mourinho hit back at those who have labelled him an overly defensive coach, particularly in the wake of Saturday’s goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield.
“We were always in control and I never felt we would concede a goal,” said Mourinho after victory over the club he briefly managed in 2000. “We were very solid defensively. Sometimes I feel to be good defensively is a crime.
“But it is not a crime. Being good defensively is one step towards getting results. We have nine points and we are basically one point away from qualification and one victory away from winning the group.
“We have put ourselves in a great position. I am really happy. We have two matches to play at home, one match to win, nine points. Good for us, good for the club. Not just for the prestige but also finance.”
United had scored in all nine of their previous clashes with Benfica but the first-half at Estadio da Luz was anything but enthralling as attacking prowess and clear-cut chances were at a premium.
A Rashford header, which failed to trouble Svilar, and former Benfica midfielder Nemanja Matic’s low drive, which was repelled by the 18-year-old Belgian, was the best either side could muster.
The second-half fared little better until the 64th minute when a deep Rashford free-kick caught out Svilar, with the backtracking stopper grasping the ball but retreating over his goalline while in possession of it.
United’s task was made all the easier when Benfica skipper Luisao was shown a second yellow card late on after flying into a tackle on substitute Scott McTominay.