Tuesday 21 November 2017

Mourinho starts mind games with Ajax jibe

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

James Ducker and Ben Rumsby

Jose Mourinho has stoked the fires ahead of Manchester United's Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm next Wednesday by claiming that the Dutch club should not be in the competition.

Ajax dropped into the Europa League after losing their Champions League play-off against FC Rostov in August.

Mourinho believes teams should only be allowed to play in one European competition per season.

"They are a Champions League team," the United manager said. "I always disagree with it. They shouldn't have the opportunity to play the Europa League.

"If you don't qualify (for the Champions League) I think they should go home. The Europa League is for teams who go into the Europa League, like us."

Mourinho has complained frequently in recent months about United's fixture schedule and reiterated those gripes as he laid out his plans to field a team made up largely of youngsters for tomorrow's final Premier League game at home to Crystal Palace.

But he said there was "no chance" of his talk of tiredness playing on the minds of his players against Ajax.

"On Tuesday when we step foot in that plane (to Stockholm) we think about one thing," he said.

Marouane Fellaini is the biggest fitness doubt for the final and underwent scans yesterday on a hamstring injury that led to his substitution against Southampton on Wednesday.

predicament Chris Smalling is likely to miss tomorrow with a minor injury but should be fit for Ajax. Paul Pogba will play, with Mourinho saying he needed game time after missing three matches following the death of his father.

Mourinho also admitted that Wayne Rooney was in a "very difficult" predicament as he faces the prospect of leaving Old Trafford after 13 years this summer but praised the 31-year-old's professionalism.

"The good thing with Wayne is that he's very much a club man and behaves in the best possible way."

A record £104.4m in prize money is up for grabs tomorrow as clubs scramble for as big a helping as possible from the league's vast pot of merit payments.

Almost two-thirds of Premier League clubs go into their final game with their place in the final standings undecided and facing what, for many, could be their single most lucrative match in the top flight.

That is almost certainly the case for Leicester City, whose 6-1 home thrashing by Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday night means that up to £15.2m is at stake in their match at Bournemouth.

The deposed champions could theoretically finish anywhere between eighth and 16th, depending on their result and those elsewhere, with each place in the table worth an additional £1.9m in prize money.

Bournemouth have up to £6.6m riding on the outcome of the game, given they could end up between eighth and 12th.

Four teams will also play for up to £11.4m, including West Ham and Burnley, who meet at Turf Moor. They will finish the season between 10th and 16th, and 11th and 17th, respectively.

With all clubs guaranteed an estimated £85m each from the bulk of the Premier League's income, as well as around £1m on for every match televised live in which they have featured this season, that £11.4m figure may appear relatively trivial. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Premier prize money

Winners: £38m; 2 £36.1m; 3 £34.2m

4 £32.3m; 5 £30.4m

6 £28.5m; 7 £26.6m; 8 £24.7m; 9 £22.8m; 10 £20.9m

11 £19m; 12 £17.1m; 13 £15.2m; 14 £13.3m; 15 £11.4m

16 £9.5m; 17 £7.6m; 18 £5.7m; 19 £3.8m; 20 £1.9m

Telegraph.co.uk

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