Football: Jose Mourinho predicts loss for United at Middlesbrough

Juan Mata scores at the far post to give Manchester United a 1-0 win over Russian side Rostov in the return leg of their Europa League last-16 clash. United play Middlesbrough tomorrow - their third match this week.
Juan Mata scores at the far post to give Manchester United a 1-0 win over Russian side Rostov in the return leg of their Europa League last-16 clash. United play Middlesbrough tomorrow - their third match this week.PHOTO: REUTERS

United boss slams congested fixture list and says his team will soon pay price for fatigue

LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho hit out at the fixture scheduling in England after losing Paul Pogba to a hamstring injury in the Europa League last-16 victory over Rostov on Thursday.

The France midfielder is likely to be out for three weeks, and thus unable to play at Middlesbrough in the English Premier League tomorrow or link up with his national team in the upcoming international break.

Mourinho believes the injury was a result of fatigue. Marcos Rojo was so depleted of energy during the game that he called for a banana to be brought on to the pitch.

"We have lots of enemies," Mourinho said after a 1-0 win over the Russian side in the return leg at Old Trafford which sent United through 2-1 on aggregate.

"Normally it would just be Rostov but we have a lot more.

  • Europa League quarter-final draw

    Anderlecht (Bel) v Manchester United (Eng)

    Celta Vigo (Esp) v Genk (Bel)

    Ajax (Ned) v Schalke 04 (Ger) Lyon (Fra) v Besiktas (Tur)

    1st leg: April 13
    2nd leg: April 20

"It is difficult to play on Monday with 10 men (against Chelsea in an FA Cup quarter-final), it is difficult to play now, it is difficult to play at 12 o'clock on a Sunday. We will probably lose at Middlesbrough now. Fatigue has a price."

He admitted his side laboured against the Russian team, but pointed out that Rostov's recent opponents in Europe had found them tough to play against.

"They defend with a block of 10 players and that makes it hard," the Portuguese said. "Our plan was to try and kill the game in the first half when we still had energy, but it didn't happen and in the second half, it began to run out. It might have been different had we scored in the first half but the nearest we came was hitting the post."

United made the breakthrough in the 70th minute after Juan Mata slammed home from close range following a backheel by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Earlier, in a less confrontational mood, Mourinho told the BBC ahead of the Rostov game that he felt United had made mistakes in the transfer market before he arrived at Old Trafford.

"I found a sad club," he said, adding that United had got rid of players he would never have sold and also spent money on players that he would never have bought.

Angel di Maria, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez were confirmed as the three players he would never have sold.

And while he did not go into details about the players he did not fancy, it is easy to draw conclusions from his treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger and prompt release of Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin.

Mourinho also said he did not believe it was possible to restore United to the level of dominance they enjoyed under Alex Ferguson.

"Forget it,' he said. "Don't try to go 10, 20 years ago because it is not possible any more.

"We are not ready to dominate. We are ready to fight for every game but we are not ready to try and win everything."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Mourinho predicts loss at Boro'. Print Edition | Subscribe