Wednesday 26 September 2018

Mourinho bids to play down doomsday at the Etihad

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Dave Thompson/Empics
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Dave Thompson/Empics

Ian Whittell

The week will belong, as the season has, to Manchester City, but to listen to at least one of the managers in action at Old Trafford, the future may not be quite so clear-cut.

With every passing week, Jose Mourinho's desperate attempts at self-justification and self-promotion have grown with increasingly fervid intensity, culminating in the United manager castigating Luke Shaw and the bulk of his first-team squad following the recent FA Cup win over Brighton.

There was more of the same from Mourinho on Saturday after a perfunctory 2-0 defeat of Swansea City, managed by his countryman and close friend Carlos Carvalhal, although events elsewhere would have dominated most United supporters' thoughts.

City's 3-1 win at Everton set up the doomsday scenario for them, a Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium next Saturday evening when victory for Pep Guardiola's side would make the league title a statistical certainty.

The prospect of such a meeting may have preoccupied United supporters for some weeks now, but to listen to Mourinho at least, it is something the Portuguese boss has not yet contemplated.

Criticism

"When is that? Next week? I'm not thinking yet about it," he claimed. "Manchester City is not important for me, what is important for me is that, since the moment we left the first position and went to second, we stayed there for the whole of the season. We deserve to finish second in spite of what you can say, the criticism you make. You say third, fourth, fifth, sixth are better than us, but they are not because we have more points than them. We are going to fight in every match. Seven matches to go, we are going to fight to finish second.

"I think we have 10 more points than last season. We have more goals scored, less goals conceded, we finish sixth, we're going to try to finish second, so the season is not as bad as you try to make it."

Despite his crude attempts to downplay the game, Mourinho's approach to his latest meeting with his old sparring partner Guardiola will be intriguing.

United were scintillating for the first half against Swansea, scoring goals from Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, both set up by Jesse Lingard, in a display which begged the question, do United approach the City game as they did this - quick, efficient and ruthless in attack, constantly on the front foot? Or does Mourinho revert to what has become type?

The goalless draw at Anfield earlier this season was the nadir of Mourinho's bus-parking career, yet it is hard to imagine he will not be tempted to do likewise against City.

Irish Independent

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