Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has provoked controversy ahead of next Wednesday’s Europa League final against Ajax by claiming that the Dutch side should not even be in the competition
Mourinho said that Peter Bosz’s side should have been eliminated from European football entirely this season, once they were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage. “They are a Champions League team,” Mourinho said.
“I think a European team shouldn’t play European competitions in the same season. I think if a team doesn’t qualify for the Champions League they should go home. We finished fifth we went to the Europa League. We started the Europa League from the start of the season and we had to fight.”
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The Portuguese, whose mood was dark, described his club’s workload as “unbelievable” and said that any who overlooked the fact in an analysis of the disappointing Premier League campaign were “liars”.
“I know some people like to lie. I think they are paid not to lie, they are paid to be honest to speak the knowledge,” he said. “Some of them lie and the reality is since January we’ve played 37 matches and in the Premier League [campaign] there are 38. We’ve played a complete Premier League minus one match in five months. We’ve done what a team does in a year in five months.”
Asked if his lengthy discussion about workload and injuries might be counter-productive, giving the players an excuse for negativity, Mourinho insisted not. “No chance,” he said. “On Tuesday when we put a foot in the plane we think about one thing.”
Mourinho did not look enthused about the final and when pressed by Dutch journalists on whether he was feeling any excitement said he could think of nothing more than the Palace game.
He made it clear that he will use Sunday’s Premier League game against Crystal Palace as a preparation match for the final in Stockholm, giving some players 45 minutes of football and selecting a clutch of young players. Wayne Rooney will probably not play against Sam Allardyce’s team, he claimed, having played 90 minutes against Southampton on Wednesday. But Paul Pogba will play as he needs the training and match test after missing a game because of the death of his father, Fassou Antoine.
“Paul is fine, a strong guy, strong mentality,” Mourinho said. “He is learning how to live after his father passed away but he is strong and he knows he needs to play next Sunday because if he doesn’t play he doesn’t train for a long time and he needs these minutes on the pitch.”
Youngsters Demetri Mitchell, Scott McTominay, Angel Gomes, as well as goalkeepers Joel Pereira and Kieron O’Hara will feature in an unrecognisable United squad against Palace. Chris Smalling has a minor injury and United were on Friday awaiting scan results on Marouane Fellaini, who left the field against Southampton with a hamstring strain.
Mourinho characterised his squad as a patched-up one, half of whom would be injured onlookers.
“Everybody goes [to Stockholm],” he said. “We have a few on crutches. Fantastic players. Difficult run. Lots of matches. Crutches for [Ashley] Young, [Luke] Shaw, [Marcos] Rojo, Zlatan [Ibrahimovich.] But we all go together.”
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Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Pereira; Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Darmian, Mitchell; Carrick, McTominay; Mata, Pogba,Dearnley; Martial
Subs from: Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Valencia, Rashford, Jones, Blind, O'Hara, Harrop, Gomes, Willock, Rooney