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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Desire proves the difference in Huddersfield Town's 'extraordinary' win against Manchester United

United manager Jose Mourinho was left to lament his side's display: 'The team that wanted it more won. I don’t even remember a friendly match where our attitude was so poor.'

Huddersfield Town players salute the crowd after their Premier League win over Manchester United. Ed Sykes / Reuters
Huddersfield Town players salute the crowd after their Premier League win over Manchester United. Ed Sykes / Reuters

As a general rule, employees of football clubs are not supposed to publicly express surprise when they are winning. When one did so, he captured the mood perfectly.

Paul Ramsden, Huddersfield Town’s tannoy announcer, reflected the sense of disbelief at a club that was in the fourth tier in 2004 when he declared: “The half-time score, if you can’t quite believe it, is Huddersfield Town 2 Manchester United 0.” Unbelievably, unforgettably and, for Jose Mourinho, unforgivably, the full-time score was Huddersfield 2 United 1.

They beat United for the first time in 65 years. They scored as many goals as United’s eight previous league opponents had managed between them. The division’s most storied club discovered its ultimate underdogs were Terriers with plenty of bite. “Today was extraordinary,” said manager David Wagner. That was not hyperbole.

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Amid swirling winds and driving rain, in a raucous atmosphere that was an illustration of what it meant to host United for the first time in 46 years, Huddersfield produced an old-fashioned result on a day with an old-fashioned feel. They were champions three times in the 1920s, but this was one of the finest days in their modern history.

“The team that wanted it more won,” accepted Mourinho. He was gracious towards Huddersfield. He excoriated his own side. “I don’t even remember a friendly match where our attitude was so poor,” he said. “I heard Ander Herrera saying that the attitude and desire was poor. When a player says that, I think they should all go to the press conference and explain why because I can’t.”

In contrast, a happier Wagner said: “What I expect is togetherness, spirit and attitude.” He got all. Huddersfield’s wage bill this season may be £250 million (Dh1.21 billion) lower than United’s. They found other ways of compensating.

“They played how I like,” Mourinho added. “They played with everything – aggression, desire, motivation, sacrifice – and we didn’t.”

Huddersfield were epitomised by Laurent Depoitre, the bull of a centre forward charging back 50 yards to chase Jesse Lingard, never his man but a man who he saw running free. They were energised by Rajiv van la Parra, the substitute who ran at United players for fun.

They were powered by Aaron Mooy, the dynamo in the midfield. They were anchored by Christopher Schindler, who was defiant in defence.

Their exploits were witnessed by Frank Worthington and Denis Law, perhaps their two greatest living players. Now others are adding their name to Huddersfield folklore. “We all know how huge it is,” said Wagner.

It was all the bigger as they had been out of form. Perhaps United were lured into complacency. Huddersfield had struck once in six previous league games. Only Stoke City’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting had scored against United in the Premier League. A select club had its membership trebled in the space of six memorable minutes.

Mooy supplied an emphatic finish after David de Gea had stopped Tom Ince’s initial effort. It was a goal with its roots in both sides of Manchester: Mooy was signed from City, albeit without ever playing for them; Ince’s father Paul was a double-winner with Alex Ferguson’s United.

Then Depoitre found himself free on goal, able to stroll past De Gea and finish. The assist came from goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, with a long kick, but he was aided by United substitute Victor Lindelof, who inexplicably ducked.

It capped a chastening afternoon for the summer signing. He had been limited to one minute of top-flight football since his £31.5m move from Benfica before Phil Jones hobbled off. Lindelof looked unprepared for the intensity of the occasion.

“It would be unfair to point fingers at players for individual mistakes,” Mourinho said. United’s collective failings were so pronounced at the start that Herrera accepted that “they were more passionate than us and more aggressive. We cannot accept that.”

Mourinho had demoted Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford to the bench. He summoned both at half-time, replacing the booked Anthony Martial and the culpable Juan Mata, who lost possession for the opener.

The Englishman made an impact. Romelu Lukaku went a third game without a goal but turned supplier, crossing for Rashford to head in. An aerial assault followed. Huddersfield survived it. Mourinho accepted: “The team that deserved to win, won.” And how.