Jose Mourinho 'disappointed' with Man United defending vs. Newcastle
NEWCASTLE -- Jose Mourinho blasted his team's defending as Manchester United slipped to defeat against Newcastle at St. James' Park.
Matt Ritchie scored the only goal of the game in the second half to leave United 16 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
Ritchie scored after Jonjo Shelvey's free kick into the penalty area was knocked down into his path.
Referee Craig Pawson awarded the initial free kick after booking Chris Smalling for diving.
Mourinho refused to blame his centre-back afterwards, but did criticise his defenders for allowing Ritchie the space to score.
He told a news conference: "It is a free kick and not even from a dangerous position.
"It's really far from the goal, clearly the positions were and the players know the positions they have to be, but we missed the challenge in the air.
"I remember clearly without TV a Newcastle player jumping and two of my players looking at him and staying on the floor so the guy won the ball in the end and the second ball was in the face of David [De Gea]."
Smalling was penalised for diving after trying to run the ball out of defence.
The incident happened under Mourinho's nose on the touchline and the United manager insisted he had no problem with Pawson's decision.
He added: "No complaints.
"I don't like to complain about referees in this situation.
"A little bit like the first goal against Tottenham, I could complain that the goal is illegal that [Harry] Kane was already 10 metres inside our half, but I think it's more logical to complain about our mistake in the long ball.
"I don't know if it is a free kick or not, what I know is that we missed a challenge in the air and we missed the second ball and I coach my players, not the referees.
"I have to be more disappointed with my players by losing the challenge."
The result means Mourinho is still waiting for his first Premier League win at St James' Park.
It was also a victory for his rival, Rafael Benitez, which lifted Newcastle, who had not won a home game in the league since Oct. 21, out of the bottom three after slipping into the relegation places earlier in the day thanks to Huddersfield's 4-1 win over Bournemouth.
Mourinho said: "First of all Newcastle players and staff, they gave what they have and what they don't have and that is the beautiful thing in football.
"I think they came here today to fight for a point, but they found themselves in a position of winning 1-0 and in that moment they went to all their limits of their efforts of the sacrifice and everything a manager likes to see in his team.
"I can imagine that Benitez is more than pleased with the effort of his players.
"Were they lucky? Yes they were, but sometimes you attract that luck with your state of mind and after the 1-0 they fought for their lives and that is a beautiful thing in football."
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.