Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho showed a touch of class in the wake of the chaotic scenes that overshadowed his side’s thrilling match with Chelsea.
The under-fire manager had been on the verge of delivering the perfect response to critics with United closing in on a second consecutive comeback win, at the home of his old club.
But with only seconds remaining, Mourinho’s relaxed smiles gave way to snarls when the hosts snatched a last-gasp equaliser and he leapt off his seat to confront a Chelsea coach who appeared to antagonise him, leading to an ugly melee.
After initially being held back from chasing the Chelsea staffer down the tunnel, Mourinho sat calmly back down on his seat – no doubt still fuming inside.
Then, as tempers cooled after the 2-2 draw, the self-declared “Special One” stuck three fingers up to the home crowd, one for each of the league titles he won with the Londoners.
Chelsea fans, who once lauded their Portuguese hero by singing his name long and loud, responded to Mourinho’s behaviour with a far from adulatory version of the song.
Mourinho explained after the match that he had moved on from the unsavoury incident after claiming he was the victim of rudeness on the part of a member of the home team’s coaching staff and fans.
“I did not get respect back from Chelsea but that is not my responsibility. What I did here today I will do in Madrid, in Milan, in Porto, the reaction from the fans is not up to me,” Mourinho told reporters.
“But I also made mistakes in football matches and I will make more. So when he came after the game to make his apologies I accepted his apologies.”
Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri backed Mourinho, saying he had already reprimanded his staff member for his role in the incident.
“We made a mistake,” he said.
“I have spoken to a member of my staff and have dealt with this immediately.”
Whether Mourinho can restore his grip on Manchester United will hinge in large part on the outcome of a daunting run of fixtures over the next few weeks.
They face Italian giants Juventus on Tuesday and again on November 7 in the Champions League, after which they visit cross-town rivals and reigning domestic champions Manchester City. In between the also face Everton and in-form Bournemouth.
United have lost ground on Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the table, having lost to Brighton and Hove Albion and West Ham United away and Tottenham Hotspur at home.
City and Liverpool extend unbeaten starts
Manchester City and Liverpool remain unbeaten in the Premier League to lead the way on equal footing.
Champions Man City thrashed Burnley 5-0 and Liverpool edged Huddersfield 1-0 on Saturday, leaving the two level in the table on 23 points.
“After we scored the second goal and third quickly it was much easier,” City manager Pep Guardiola, whose side are top on goal difference over Liverpool, said.
“The goals were so outstanding – beautiful, beautiful goals – and the chances we created, and it’s three more points.”
City controlled the first half at the Etihad Stadium but only led 1-0 through Sergio Aguero.
The champions scored a disputed goal in the 54th minute as Burnley’s players all stopped in anticipation of a penalty when Leroy Sane went down and David Silva crossed for Bernardo Silva to fire home.
Fernandinho made it 3-0 two minutes later before Riyad Mahrez and Sane completed the rout.
Liverpool were forced to work harder than expected by winless Huddersfield.
Mohamed Salah scored the only goal as the Reds ended a four-match winless run in all competitions.
Salah slotted home in the 24th minute for his first goal in five games overall.
“Tough game, but in the end we got the three points and that’s most important,” Salah told BT Sport.
“We had to fight.”
Huddersfield had several good chances to equalize but came up empty and remain 19th on three points.