Reflecting on Saturday’s narrow defeat to Birmingham City - his first match in charge of the South Yorkshire club - the Serb refused to criticise his players for failing to execute the game plan he had devised with greater efficiency; reminding how Covid-19 had wreaked havoc with their pre-season preparations.
Although a lack of fitness and familiarity with the systems and strategies the Serb wants to employ were both in evidence throughout a contest settled by Maxime Colin’s first-half goal, Jokanovic also acknowledged it could take time for United to completely recover from the mental rigors of last term.
After failing to win a game until January, United’s relegation back to the Championship was confirmed in April - a month before the end of they contested their final match of the Premier league campaign.
“If they don’t believe they are the best, they will believe it soon,” he said. “They showed a lot of character, I thought and after a defeat it is never easy.
“But, really, I thought they showed me a lot of positive things.
“Yes, there were negatives, one of which was the fact we lost because the result is always the most important thing. But I will always try to encourage them and the fact they pushed so hard to try and score the (equalising) goal, that told me a lot about them. Because I could see that they were so tired.”
"That, for me, showd great personality,” he continued. “And personality is so important.
"We will grow and we will get better. Of course there arfe things we need to work on and improve, but this was only our third real game together.
"But I know my team and the people here will do that.”
Unlike City, who completed five, United took part in only two warm-up matches before entering Saturday’s game. Norwich City were forced shelve a visit to Bramall Lane because of a coronavirus outbreak at Carrow Road while United also abandoned plans to stage a series of behind closed doors fixtures at the training complex when the Steelphalt Academy was closed for 10 days following a series of positive tests within Jokanovic’s squad.
It meant players like Sander Berge, who has taken part in only 45 minutes of football since May, were forced to complete 90 against Lee Bowyer’s men.
Although he acknowledged the outcome was a disappointment, Jokanovic said: “I believe my team is a good team. I believe we have good players. If we bring new bodies in, of course, good. But they were honest and we pushed. If I start talking about my team, I always think my team is the best out there. After a defeat is not the time to complain. It is a time to work hard and encourage.”