Jose Mourinho expecting surprises as Manchester United enter into a tough October
Published 01/10/2016 | 11:29
Jose Mourinho is expecting a "surprise behind the door" as the Manchester United manager utilises his squad during a testing run of October fixtures.
Life since succeeding Louis van Gaal has already had its peaks and troughs, with Community Shield glory and three successive wins followed by a run of three straight losses in all competitions.
United have responded impressively to that dip and racked up a third consecutive win on Thursday against Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League.
Mourinho made fewer changes than previous midweek matches due to the importance of getting a victory ahead of Fenerbahce's arrival next month, with that match wedged in-between trips to Liverpool and Chelsea.
A clash against Manchester City in the EFL Cup and Burnley in the league end a month that starts with Stoke's visit on Sunday, with that frantic period set to teach Mourinho a lot about his players.
"Every game I know more about my players, especially the ones that are on the pitch," Mourinho said after his 10th match at the Old Trafford helm.
"Obviously I would like to have other players playing more so I can see more, I can learn more about them.
"(On Thursday) I had in my mind to give Memphis (Depay) 20, 25 minutes. I couldn't with the way I had to make the changes.
"Then with a problem with (Timothy) Fosu-Mensah, I had to play a right-back but we need the squad. That's for sure.
"The Europa League is a competition that disturbs more the domestic competitions because you play Thursdays and it's really difficult."
Depay has made just one start under Mourinho, as has Ashley Young, Matteo Darmian and - due to injury as much as anything - Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Michael Carrick, Fosu-Mensah and Morgan Schneiderlin are others to have seen playing time restricted, but Mourinho is fully expecting one or more of those on the periphery to become key figures.
"You know, I need time," he said. "I need the players to play, I need to see them in different circumstances. I need to understand more about them.
"There is so much to learn about the players that only when you work with them a long, long time you really know them well.
"There's always a surprise behind the door when you work with a team for three or four or five months. There's always a surprise."
An opportunity for squad players to shine is unlikely to arrive when they face Stoke on Sunday lunchtime.
United enter the weekend six points off leaders Manchester City and looking to build on the 4-1 shellacking of Premier League champions Leicester.
"You know every game is massive," Mourinho said ahead of a tough-looking October. "You know, Watford was massive.
"We lost three points against Watford - not different from the three points we lost against Man City.
"So every game for me is important but, you are right, we have some big opponents in October but that's also a motivation."
Right now Stoke would look United's simplest task, given the atrocious start to the campaign Mark Hughes' men have endured.
Four defeats, no wins and 15 goals conceded means the Potters languish 19th in the standings, but Mourinho is not taking Sunday's opponents lightly.
"It can happen," he said of Stoke's start. "It can happen, but I am sure that in the end of May they will be in the Stoke area in the table.
"They will be there so I play against a good manager and good players. That's the important thing for me.
"The table I think is just a moment, just a period and they will go over it for sure."