Chris Smalling revealed Manchester United’s stunning fightback against Manchester City was inspired by Jose Mourinho imploring his players not to be “clowns” at their rivals’ title party.
United looked set to suffer the indignity of watching City celebrate winning the Premier League after racing into a two-goal half-time lead in the Manchester derby thanks to Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan.
But Mourinho’s men were completely transformed after their manager’s stirring half-time team-talk.
Paul Pogba scored twice in two minutes to shock City and Smalling volleyed the winner to cap a memorable 3-2 win.
“At half-time we were feeling sorry for ourselves, we wanted to go out there and play with pride and thought we fully deserved it in the end,” Smalling said.
“We knew ourselves as players it was a poor performance. The first half was terrible, we dropped off, didn’t play our game, and they could have been out of sight.
“He (Mourinho) said that we didn’t want to be the clowns standing there watching them get their title.
“City have been fantastic here all season, but we stepped up and won the game.”
Just 24 hours after Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola revealed he had been told by Pogba’s agent that the France midfielder was for sale during the January transfer window, it was fitting that the United star was the spark for his side’s victory.
Pogba has been dropped by Mourinho several times this season after some lacklustre displays, but he was inspired in the second half against City.
“You never see Paul hide. 11 players stood up today when it would have been easy to hide,” Smalling added.
Mourinho scoffed at the Pogba transfer talk, saying: “If the accusation from his agent is that he wants to go to other clubs, his price has gone up.”
Mourinho was impressed with the way his side took the attack to City in the second half and found a way to hand the leaders only their second league defeat this season.
“We moved the ball, more than any team has against Manchester City. We pressed a bit higher and we keep the shape to get a good result,” he said.
“Our challenge is to finish second but I want to congratulate City for the title because they are going to win and deservedly.
“My objective here was to get points and not spoil any celebrations.”