Friday 23 March 2018

Jose Mourinho: Manchester United don't want to be in Europa League but we will respect it

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during the press conference
Action Images via Reuters / Matthew Childs
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during the press conference Action Images via Reuters / Matthew Childs

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho has admitted Manchester United do not want to be in the Europa League – but has vowed to take the competition seriously.

The United manager also revealed that he had left Wayne Rooney out of the Europa League squad to face Feyenoord in Rotterdam on Thursday in order to give his captain a rest.

Rooney is one of six players along with Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard, Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones who did not travel to Holland on Wednesday. Jones, the England defender, has been ruled out for a month after suffering a lateral knee ligament problem, another set-back in the player’s long line of injuries.

Mourinho inherited a team in Europe’s secondary cup competition after United’s failure to finish in the top four under Louis van Gaal last season but he claims he is determined not to write off the competition.

“This is not a competition Manchester United wants, what I want, what the players want, but it is a competition where we are, and that is the reality, so we have to look at it with respect,” said Mourinho.

“We want to do well in the competition and for a club of our stature, to do well is not to go out of the competition at the group stage.”

Rooney has played in every game under Mourinho so far this season and the Portuguese felt it was an appropriate time to give the 30-year-old a break.

“Wayne took it in a professional way, like the other ones,” said Mourinho.

“He's played every game since the beginning of the season, he played also 90 minutes for England and he played 90 minutes last weekend.

“I want him to be fresh for the next Premier League match and at the same time it's the kind of attacking position where I have a lot of solutions and where people are working hard to have a chance.

“Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw didn't travel with the team, they are positions were I have other solutions where I prefer to have fresh players for this game and for the game at the weekend.

“We play at midday on Sunday, so I try to have a strong team here and a strong team, Sunday.”

Thursday marks the anniversary of Shaw’s broken leg against PSV Eindhoven in Holland last year but Mourinho said the prospect of sparing the player a difficult return to the country never entered his mind.

“The decision was not made thinking about that negative episode, so the reason is simple – Marcos Rojo is a very good player,” said Mourinho.

“He is working really hard, my options in the Premier League in the last four matches were always Luke, Luke, Luke, so I think it's time for Marcos to play – a simple decision.”

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