Jose Mourinho praised Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford after the duo came off the bench to help Manchester United to secure a controversial 2-0 win at West Ham on Monday (2 January).
United failed to break the Hammers' resistance during the first half despite Slaven Bilic's side being reduced to 10 men in the 15th minute of the game when referee Mike Dean showed Sofiane Feghouli a controversial straight red card for a challenge on Phil Jones.
Mourinho brought on Mata and Rashford to turn around the situation and the decision paid off in the 63rd minute as the Spaniard put the Red Devils ahead thanks to a great pass from his young teammate. The England international himself then hit the post before Zlatan Ibrahimovic wrapped up the game by scoring from an offside position with 12 minutes remaining.
"It was a difficult match, but I had ammunition on the bench. I had Mata and Rashford, who were crucial in both matches when coming off the bench," Mourinho said, reflecting that both players had a major impact on the dramatic 2-1 win over Middlesbrough two days earlier.
"In these fixtures it is very important to have people on the bench, capable of winning the game. I had a feeling to start Mata and Rashford today, but I think it is better for them to come from the bench when everyone is dying and the decision was proven right.
"[West Ham midfielder Håvard] Nordtveit played for 90 minutes against Leicester City and today he played for 60 minutes against Mkhitaryan and Lingard, with lots of running. He was in front of me in the first half and it was a big effort for the boy. Slaven [Bilic] had no more defenders on the bench. He just had attacking players on the bench. So I thought Rashford could make a difference, not through the middle this time but coming from the side."
Meanwhile, Mourinho also hailed David De Gea as the keeper made two impressive saves to foil Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini to secure a clean sheet and help United to a sixth consecutive win in the Premier League.
"It was a crucial save. To be honest, we had a big chance in the first half but they had a good shot, Antonio went face to face with David. It was very important," Mourinho admitted. "They also had Carroll on the bench and I knew that when they were losing, he was coming for sure. In this moment I felt it was time for a proper central defender and time to bring Smalling into the game."