Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United will end up “in trouble” if they continue to fight on all fronts.
Tonight’s Europa League clash against St Etienne kicks off a frantic 11-day period as the second leg in France comes after an FA Cup tie at Blackburn and is followed by the small matter of the EFL Cup final against Southampton.
There will be little let-up if United emerge victorious from that run of matches as more fixtures would leave them with a bloated, uneven schedule.
Mourinho believes balancing domestic and European exertions will stretch his squad and ultimately hamper their chances of success — not that he will allow his side to take their foot off the gas.
“We cannot choose the competitions at Manchester United,” the United boss said. “We know that our situation is really complicated. We know that the Europa League is also a competition where we play on Thursdays and that makes it even more difficult for us.
“The accumulation of FA Cup, League Cup, match postponements is really hard for us.
“If we progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble in April and May. But we cannot choose competitions, so we play them to win. I think it’s also a good way to give the team experience and international experience is always a plus. Europa League is not a competition we want to play, but it’s a competition we play and we respect it.”
Mourinho is desperate to return United to Europe’s top table, but believes Champions League qualification through the league will be harder to secure than for others as cup progress will “create many, many problems”.
“We know that it’s going to be very difficult,” the United boss said, with just four points separating his side and second-placed Manchester City.
“We know obviously it can have an impact in the Premier League because we are competing against teams in other circumstances.
“For example, Liverpool play only in the Premier League, Chelsea in the Premier League and the FA Cup. We have still Tottenham in a similar situation as us, but we want to progress. That’s the point. We prefer difficult but progressing to easy and being knocked out of the competitions. We will go seriously tomorrow and seriously against Blackburn on Sunday.”
Luke Shaw will be hoping to be involved at Ewood Park having been overlooked for Thursday’s match, while Phil Jones, out with a foot complaint, will want to face his former club.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick will not be risked against St Etienne, but Mourinho plans to name a strong side — and risk the wrath of Paul Pogba’s mum.
Today’s match against Les Verts pits the world’s most expensive player against his older brother Florentin, leaving the Pogba family hoping for a draw.
“We spoke in a good way, a funny way,” Mourinho said of Paul. “I think it is a good, nice destiny.
“I think only mum Pogba is a little bit in trouble, which is normal. It’s difficult for the lady to choose — it’s not difficult, it’s impossible.”
St Etienne’s Norwegian midfielder Ole Selnaes is a Manchester United fan, is relishing the trip to Old Trafford.
“It’s going to be a really tough match, but for sure I know that the atmosphere is going to be very, very good every time we play at home. We will try to play our way. We have to try to respect their strengths and everything, but we’re not that kind of team who just plays defensively 90 minutes.”
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