Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said “being good defensively is not a crime” as his side edged past Benfica in the Champions League.
The only goal of the game in Lisbon came courtesy of Marcus Rashford’s long-range free-kick which caught out teenage goalkeeper Mile Svilar on his European debut.
Belgian Svilar, the competition’s youngest goalkeeper at 18 years and 52 days, had a moment to forget when he carried Rashford’s 35-yard free-kick from out wide over his own goalline.
Rashford gave United a cause for concern when he limped off with a knee injury in the second half and was replaced by Anthony Martial.
United were criticised for their approach in their goalless draw against Liverpool on Saturday in which they hit the target just once, but the Red Devils have now conceded just six goals all season.
“We were the team that was positive and we were always in control,” said former Benfica boss Mourinho. “I never felt that we could concede a goal, we were very solid defensively.
“Sometimes I feel that to be good defensively is a crime but it is not a crime. To be good defensively is one step to get results. We knew the Benfica pressure could not stay for 90 minutes.
“The amazing defensive work Liverpool did against us, Benfica could not do that for the whole game. Without any pressure, we knew the goal would arrive.”
Up until the 63rd-minute goal, the visitors had largely been disappointing, pedestrian in their play and caused few problems for the Portuguese side.
Former Benfica midfielder Nemanja Matic forced Svilar into a low save and lashed an effort over the crossbar, as did the disappointing Henrikh Mkhitaryan from a promising position.
The home side failed to work David de Gea into a save for the entire game and their best chance fell to Eduardo Salvio in the first half, but the Argentina winger struck wide from inside the box.
Benfica were reduced to 10 men late on when veteran centre-back Luisao was given a second yellow card.
Mourinho’s side top Group A after winning all three games while Basel beat CSKA Moscow in the other match.
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