The Portuguese, who has never collected three points at St James’ Park, saw Matt Ritchie fire old foe Rafael Benitez’s men to an unlikely victory and, while suggesting they had ridden their luck, he was complimentary about the huge effort they put in.
Mourinho told Sky Sports: “They fought like animals – and animal is a good word in football and I hope they take it as a compliment.
“The gods of football were with them, but they fought like animals. It wasn’t going to happen for us today.
“They fought for their points and when they went in front, they gave their lives to keep a clean sheet. I think it’s a beautiful way to win a football match.”
Newcastle, who kicked off sitting inside the relegation zone as a result of Huddersfield’s win earlier in the day, gave as good as they got before the break with debutant keeper Martin Dubravka producing a fine save to deny Anthony Martial.
However, Ritchie’s 65th-minute winner came against the run of play and the Magpies had to defend for their lives as time ran down.
Jonjo Shelvey’s floated free-kick was headed down by Florian Lejeune as he climbed high above Paul Pogba and when Dwight Gayle laid the ball off, Ritchie pounced.
Pogba – who appeared to be limping when he left St James’ Park – endured a frustrating afternoon, but Mourinho was in no mood to criticise him during his post-match press conference.
He said: “I am pretty sure you have already watched that goal on TV a few times – I didn’t – so you know more than me and you know who lost the challenge in the air.
“You know clearly that, so I think it is bad if you put me in a position where I have to criticise a player.”
Benitez’s mood was understandably lighter as he assessed perhaps the biggest win of his reign to date.
He said: “It was really a great game against a very good team, as top side which everybody knows how good they are.
“What we did, therefore, the way we were playing, every player giving everything was fantastic, and to do it in front of our fans, even better.
“Still we were a little bit lucky at the end, but I think the team deserved three points in any of these games and if it’s this one, even better.
“I’m really proud of them because that is the way to be sure that you can stay in the Premier League.”
Asked how good it was to beat a Mourinho team again, the Spaniard added: “To be fair, I’m not thinking about that.
“I was just trying to get three points against anyone. Today it was Manchester United, hopefully it will be the same against Bournemouth.”