The trio were restored to the starting XI for the first time since suffering injuries over the international break at the Emirates.
And Mourinho, speaking after the game, was quick to praise the still-convalescing trio for putting themselves on the line against Arsene Wenger’s men.
“The team was good, organised, we tried to win, we played to win, we defended well and Arsenal weren’t better than us in my opinion.”
Mata does indeed deserve praise for coming back into the side after such a prolonged break and applying himself in admirable fashion. United might have let you down if they were in your ProfitAccumulator but Mata, tasked with a really tough job, put in a good performance.
Arsenal’s back three approach meant that Kieran Gibbs, with Axel Tuanzebe keeping tabs on Alexis Sanchez further infield, could burst forward and the Spaniard had to give everything to keep up. You could tell that he was fading with 20 minutes left – something to be expected, perhaps, after not playing a single minute since March 19.
But Smalling and Jones, in spite of being in the same predicament as Mata, deserve less sympathy. The heavily scrutinised defensive duo looked miles off the pace, unable to offer a solid platform at the back as Arsenal created numerous chances. Coming back into the side after over a month is never easy, of course, but supporters would have expected more grit from the pair when it came to handling the threat of Danny Welbeck.