Jose Mourinho said that his star players had redeemed themselves after the embarrassment of losing to West Brom at home last weekend with a stirring performance to beat Tottenham 2–1 and reach the FA Cup final.
And he challenged them to build on their improvement and ensure that they finished second in the Premier League – which he insisted would make for a successful season regardless of whether they win the FA Cup.
With Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera scoring and Paul Pogba delivering an authoritative display, three of the principal culprits against West Brom were at their best.
And Mourinho said: ‘I told Alexis the same as I told Paul a couple of weeks ago. I cannot expect my players to be man of the match every match, I cannot expect them to score goals every match, I cannot expect them to be perfect very match.
‘What I expect is a certain level you don’t drop below, and that level is the basic things of the game. If you do the basic things of the game and then in some matches your talent appears and makes the difference, that is fine. I am not waiting for Alexis to score again in the next match and be man of the match. I just want him to be stable.
‘I can imagine that even if we had lost today, I would not be as upset as I was against West Brom, even with it being an FA Cup semi-final, because the attitude was good, the players were good, they were focused, they were ready, they helped each other and were confident to play. I was really really happy and pleased so the answer was good.
‘I think the feeling now is we need two victories and one draw to finish second with 81 points and if we manage to do that, against an untouchable City [when there was] no chance to get in the fight with them, then we can get to the final with a good spirit.’
And Mourinho insisted that second place would be enough to judge the season a success, even without an FA Cup win, which, if he can secure it, would be his third trophy at United.
‘The season is successful if we finish second with 81 points and we’re better than Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal. If we break the 80-point target, I think it’s successful.
‘To finish second against an untouchable winner is good, to make a lot more points than last season, to win more matches to score more goals, to concede less goals, to have much better results against the top teams I think is a successful season. Now the final is the final and obviously you have to try to win it.’