Monday 23 October 2017

'They shouldn't be here' - Jose Mourinho takes swipe at Ajax ahead of Europa League final

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho

Liam Blackburn

Jose Mourinho has confirmed Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his fellow injured team-mates will attend the Europa League final, but the Portuguese does not believe opponents Ajax should be there at all.

Ibrahimovic's season was ended in the second leg of the quarter-final win over Anderlecht last month when he sustained knee ligament damage which required surgery in the United States.

It has robbed the 35-year-old Swede of a possible United swansong and the chance to write the perfect script in his homeland when United face his old club Ajax in Stockholm, though Mourinho has revealed Ibrahimovic will travel to Sweden to be at Wednesday's game anyway.

But Mourinho does not think the Dutch side should have ever been in the competition.

Ajax started the season in the Champions League qualification rounds before a two-legged defeat to Russian side Rostov meant they dropped into the Europa League group stages, where United's campaign also started.

"They are a Champions League team; they come from the Champions League," Mourinho said.

"I always disagree with it, I think a team shouldn't play two European competitions in the same season.

"I think if a team goes to the Champions League and then doesn't qualify, they should go home, they shouldn't have the opportunity to play in the Europa League.

"I think the Europa League competition is for teams that go to the Europa League in the beginning, like us.

"We finished fifth (in last season's Premier League), we went to the Europa League. We started in the Europa League from the beginning of the season and had to fight (to get) where we are."

Like United, Ajax have also played 14 games in this competition so will be able to sympathise with the gruelling route to Stockholm that Mourinho has often referenced.

The Portuguese believes one thing such a schedule has done is foster a bond within his squad, which is why he is so keen for Ibrahimovic and fellow injured players Ashley Young, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo to be present.

"Everyone goes," Mourinho said of his travelling party.

"We have a few on crutches but everyone goes. (We have a) fantastic group of players, fantastic spirit since the beginning of the season - a difficult run, lots of matches, we spent more time travelling, playing, in hotels, than at home.

"Because 60-something (games) means 140 days in a hotel; half of the year we spent together and that is only possible when the spirit is amazing.

"So everyone is going be there, crutches for Young, Shaw, Rojo, for Zlatan, but we all go together."

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