The Red Devils suffered a second away defeat in a row in the Premier League thanks to a 65th-minute strike from Matt Ritchie, which extended Mourinho’s miserable run at St James’ Park to seven league games without a win.
The result means Manchester City remain 16 points clear at the top of the table and need only six more wins in their remaining 11 games to secure the title, with the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium the sixth match in that run.
Mourinho was happy to praise the home side for the performance, though, rather than criticise his own players for a hugely disappointing display.
“They fought like animals and I mean that as a compliment,” he told Sky Sports. “They gave everything they had and the gods of football were with them.
6 – Jose Mourinho has now lost six times against Rafael Benitez in all competitions; only versus Pep Guardiola (9) has he suffered more defeats as a manager. Adversaries. pic.twitter.com/SBhGVfaH4c
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 11, 2018
“It wasn’t going to happen for us but also they gave what they have and what they don’t have and that’s a beautiful thing in football. They must have the best feeling of all, sometimes a better feeling than when you play fantastically well and are better than the opponent.
“I think a point was what they had in mind. We made a defensive mistake with the free-kick [in the build-up to the goal] and, when they were in front, they gave their lives to keep a clean sheet. It was not just up to them but also the gods of football, but it was a beautiful way to win the match.”
Paul Pogba was restored to the starting line-up after being dropped for the 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town last week, but he was substituted shortly after Ritchie’s goal following another anonymous display away from home.
Mourinho claimed there were “no problems” with Pogba’s fitness, despite some suggestions he was carrying an injury, and says he planned to make the change before his side went behind.
“I wanted a better way to come out in the first phase against a team defending in a compact block,” he explained. “I tried that with the simplicity of Michael Carrick and to bring Alexis [Sanchez] to an area close to [Romelu] Lukaku, where he could be like a second striker.
“I was unlucky because they scored a goal in the seconds before that and then I’m going to face a different Newcastle.”