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Jose Mourinho hits back at Man United critics: Defending is not a crime

Marcus Rashford's free kick was mishandled by Benfica's goalkeeper and sealed a hard-fought 1-0 victory for Man United.
The FC guys provide their critiques for Jose Mourinho's Man United side following a narrow UCL victory over Benfica.

LISBON, Portugal -- Jose Mourinho has hit back at critics of his style of football by insisting good defending is not a crime.

Manchester United kept their ninth clean sheet in just 13 games so far this season after shutting out Benfica to win 1-0 in Champions League Group A in Lisbon on Wednesday night.

It came just four days after Liverpool fired a blank against Mourinho's side in a goalless draw at Anfield, a result that prompted some accusations of negative football.

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Mourinho told a news conference: "Not that I read it a lot, but sometimes when I read the press, not only English but Portuguese, I feel that sometimes defending properly is seen as a crime but it is not.

"That's why we controlled the game because we defended properly and the goal was not against the current of the game, but we end up ending the game and we are almost qualified so that's it."

Marcus Rashford scored a bizarre winner in the second half when 18-year-old goalkeeper Mile Svilar, who became the youngest keeper to appear in the Champions League, carried the forward's free kick over the line.

The result was United's third win in three tries in Group A to almost guarantee qualification for the knockout rounds.

Mourinho added: "You think we have any reason not to be happy?

"We are happy, we have nine points, won the match, didn't concede goals, the game was calm, team was compact, control and almost there.

"I think one more point to qualify maybe victory to finish first, so all good."

The only downside for Mourinho was watching Rashford hobble off with a knee injury.

The 19-year-old headed straight down the tunnel after being replaced with Anthony Martial, but the United manager is hopeful the problem is not serious.

Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal for Man United before limping off with a knock.

Mourinho also hinted Phil Jones should be fit to face Huddersfield on Saturday despite dropping to the bench against Benfica because of a minor injury, but Eric Bailly, who has a groin problem, is set to miss out again.

Mourinho said: "Rashford, I thought it was cramps because he was running so much, it was about muscular fatigue, but he felt something in his knee but to me it doesn't look a big thing."

Mourinho is already without Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic but insists he will not "cry" like other managers.

He said: "There is another situation maybe I'm guilty of, I never speak about injuries.

"Other managers cry and cry and cry, I don't cry.

"The way to do it is ignore the players who are injured, give confidence to the players who are available.

"Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Fellaini, Marcos Rojo, I can cry but I don't, so we do it with what we have.

"We went to Liverpool with two midfield players and nothing else.

"We brought the kid today like Benfica does, I have no other solution, I brought Scott McTominay, who is the same age as the Benfica kids.

"But the Premier League is a different story. Twelve matches, 10 victories, two draws, nine clean sheets. We are not bad."

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.

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