Jose Mourinho admits his Manchester United players could suffer a crisis of confidence following their humbling 3-2 defeat at Brighton.
United were architects of their own downfall at the Amex Stadium, making mistakes in the build up to the two opening goals scored by Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy.
Romelu Lukaku briefly halved the deficit but a clumsy challenge from Eric Bailly allowed Pascal Gross to restore Albion’s two-goal lead with a penalty, before Paul Pogba converted an inconsequential stoppage-time spot-kick.
United manager Mourinho blamed individual errors for the surprise defeat and feels it could be damaging for morale.
“The confidence of the players, I think you are right,” replied Mourinho, when asked if it would be difficult to raise the spirits of his team.
“It’s not just the players, I think every person in every job makes a mistake, he’s not happy, self esteem goes down a little bit more, confidence levels, that’s human nature.
“If you ask me if my players are, in this moment, happy, I don’t think they are.”
Brighton, who beat United 1-0 in May to make sure of their top-flight status, repeated the trick by blowing away their opponents in the opening 45 minutes.
Striker Murray took advantage of shoddy defending to superbly flick home the 25th-minute opener, and centre-back Duffy converted two minutes later after the visitors failed to clear a corner.
Lukaku’s close-range header looked like it could inspire a fightback, but Gross’ spot-kick, after he was felled by a clumsy challenge from Bailly, secured the three points just before the break.
Pogba, captaining United, made the scoreline more respectable with almost the final kick of the game following Duffy’s foul on substitute Marouane Fellaini.
Mourinho refused to openly criticise his players, saying he had been too honest in the past and suggesting the defeat was sufficient ammunition for journalists.
“I think this game today, if I was in your position, would give me (enough) material to speak about it or to write about it,” added Mourinho, addressing the media.
“Don’t expect me to speak with you about it because you and your colleagues they were really critical with me in previous seasons (when) I was probably too honest, too open in my analysing.
“Expect from me to be really happy to say after Leicester (a 2-1 win), A, B, C, D, amazing performances, this and that; don’t expect me to go in the other direction.”
Brighton boss Chris Hughton was pleased to record another memorable victory over United and bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing defeat at Watford.
“Very proud of the performance, particularly the reaction from last week,” said Hughton.
“The tempo of the game was very good and I must admit, even if we hadn’t got the result, I would have been really delighted with the way our team played the game and the levels that we got to, to try and get a result.
“And I would like to think that most people watching the game would look at it – I know once it’s a big-six team that others will look at it a little bit different – that we were good, as opposed to United being poor.”