Jesse Lingard stressed the importance of Manchester United simply having got back to winning ways after they defeated Brighton on Saturday in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
United beat the Seagulls 2-0 at Old Trafford, with Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic each netting headers, four days on from their shock Champions League last-16 elimination there at the hands of Sevilla.
The Red Devils produced a fairly underwhelming display as they secured a place at Wembley, and United boss Jose Mourinho, the day after defending his record in an extraordinary pre-match press conference rant, was critical of his players.
Speaking to BT Sport, the Portuguese described Matic as “an island – an island of personality, of desire and control – surrounded by, not water, but by a lack of personality, of class and desire”, and added in his post-match press conference that some of his team had been “scared to play”.
Old target Luke Shaw, taken off at half-time, was among those to have his performance criticised.
Giving his assessment, winger Lingard said on manutd.com: “They (Brighton) sat back and hit us on the counter-attack a few times, which we were obviously aware of before the match, but we knew we needed to win and we got the win, which was the most important thing.
“Of course (confidence took a knock after Tuesday night). It’s always difficult for a team to be knocked out of a competition, but we showed the character to bounce back and not let anything faze us.”
The FA Cup is the only competition offering a realistic chance of claiming silverware this season to United, who are 16 points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester City in second place.
Lingard added: “Semi-finals are always big and it’s like the final, you could say, at a neutral ground, so we’re excited.
“Any opportunity to win a trophy is always good for the team and the fans, so if we can get a trophy out of the season, it’ll be good.
“The semi-final keeps everyone motivated and we have something to look forward to, but saying that, in the Premier League, we need to maintain that second spot and keep the pressure on at the top.”
Lukaku and Matic are two players Mourinho had highlighted as consistent performers during his lengthy, impassioned soliloquy on Friday.
Lukaku’s effort against Brighton was his 25th goal for United since joining them last summer.
And Lingard said of the striker: “We know what he possesses and he has that presence up front for us. He’s that lone man who holds the ball up well for us. For him to score that many goals at this time of the season is great.”
It was Brighton’s second defeat at Old Trafford this season, having lost 1-0 in November, and midfielder Solly March said on his club’s official website: “In many ways it’s similar to the first game we played here. We created some chances – but we need to put them away.
“Maybe we fell asleep for their two goals, but other than that I thought we looked solid so we’re disappointed.”
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