Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho branded Bristol City “lucky” after the Championship high-flyers stunned the tournament holders to reach the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.
An injury-time strike from midfielder Korey Smith ensured City reached the last four of the League Cup for the first time since the 1988-89 campaign, and they will now face runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City in a two-legged tussle.
Former Sweden skipper Zlatan Ibrahimovic had earlier drawn United level following Joe Bryan’s opener at a packed Ashton Gate, only for City to conjure a last-gasp winner, which left Mourinho rueful.
“They were a bit lucky,” said Mourinho. “But they fought a lot to be lucky. They won the game in a moment where we have no possibilities to react, they win the game in our best moment and in the moment where everybody was waiting for our goal.
“But they played brilliantly and fought like it was the game of their lives, which it probably was. It’s nice to be like that and I think a beautiful day for football because a team from a lower division won.
“We lacked intensity, mentally as well as physically. For some of us it was just one more day in the office and probably a day for some when they didn’t even want to come to the office.”
Bristol City manager Lee Johnson, meanwhile, refused to hide his elation. He said: “It’s an overwhelming feeling of pride. The players were outstanding to a man and to beat Manchester United is incredible.
“They are special group, personality and quality wise. It’s been a long, long time since we had a result like that. The scenes at full-time will live in the memory of this football club for many years.”
United twice rattled the woodwork in the first half, through Ibrahimovic after his effort struck City centre-half Nathan Baker and was diverted onto the crossbar as well as Marcus Rashford, before the Robins surged into a 51st-minute lead.
Bryan, City’s Bristol-born wing-back, hared onto a forward pass from midfielder Marlon Pack and unleashed a first-time rocket that whistled past United goalkeeper Sergio Romero and into his top corner.
Their joy lasted just seven minutes, however, as Ibrahimovic hauled United level with his first goal since re-joining the club in August following knee surgery by drilling a free-kick low beyond City stopper Luke Steele.
But with the clash teetering on the brink of extra time, City grabbed a winner as Smith ran beyond the United defence to meet substitute striker Matt Taylor’s clipped pass and fire past Romero.