LONDON On the face of it, Jose Mourinho shouldered the blame for the wounding defeat in his first Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Yet in familiar fashion, the 'Special One' was also keen to deflect attention from how he had been outmanoeuvred by Pep Guardiola once again in the 2-1 defeat by Manchester City and to heap responsibility on some under-performing luminaries.
Asked if picking the wrong team may have been responsible for United being embarrassingly outplayed in the first half, Mourinho shrugged: "We could play with some individuals with some qualities who didn't give me what I want.
"Is it their fault? Is it my fault? It's my fault because it's my choice."
It sounded like classic, grudging Mourinho, almost an intimation that, actually, he was the one who should feel let down by the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard.
Mkhitaryan looked still off the pace after a rib problem and Lingard, also back after injury, was poor while United's in-form lightning rod Marcus Rashford was left on the bench until the second half to inject some desperately needed pace and fire.
After that mistake was rectified too belatedly, Mourinho turned to heaping opprobrium on referee Mark Clattenburg, suggesting that the referee was responsible for the defeat by turning down two penalty appeals.
The implication was that he, naturally, was not to blame.
Yet what was Mourinho really thinking as he watched Guardiola's side running rings round his men in the opening half, all largely orchestrated by a player whose obvious quality was lost on him when he was at Chelsea?
United paid 89 million pounds ($118.15 million) to gift Paul Pogba for Mourinho but the world's most expensive player was anonymous compared to City's driving force Kevin de Bruyne.
The Belgian prodigy never won Mourinho's affection or trust at Stamford Bridge, because -- supposedly -- he was not prepared to battle for his place.
Yet, increasingly, after his superb post-Chelsea exploits at Wolfsburg and now City, it seems even more mysterious that such a fine man manager as Mourinho could not recognise that here was a special talent worth nurturing.
The one that got away gave Guardiola everything Mourinho might have hoped for from Pogba, scoring the opener, hitting the post which led to Kelechi Iheanacho's tap-in and still going strong enough near the end to hit the woodwork again.
De Bruyne was so influential that if it had not been for Claudio Bravo's nervy debut in the City goal, which allowed United back into the match, the game could have easily been dead by halftime.
"For the fans it is worth more than three points," De Bruyne noted. "For us, we just have to maintain the same." That includes more of the same from him, the skill, industry and engine that should serve Guardiola so handsomely this season.
($1 = 0.7533 pounds)
(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Alan Baldwin)