Football: Mourinho set to rotate his squad for trip to St Etienne

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during a training session on Feb 21, 2017.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during a training session on Feb 21, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • Jose Mourinho will likely ring the changes again as Manchester United look to wrap up their progress to the Europa League last 16 with a win over Saint-Etienne away today.

A Zlatan Ibrahimovic hat-trick led them to a 3-0 victory in last week's first leg at Old Trafford and, barring an alarming meltdown, the English giants should comfortably see out the second leg in France.

Mourinho made seven changes to his side for last Sunday's 2-1 FA Cup victory over Blackburn and will likely keep his squad rotating with the English League Cup final against Southampton to come this Sunday.

Just juggling his team sufficiently to keep it fresh for every match is keeping Mourinho busy.

United will play at least 65 matches this season if they reach the Europa League and FA Cup finals, on top of the five they have played in reaching Sunday's League Cup final.

Despite an upcoming trip to Wembley, United midfielder Juan Mata has urged his team-mates to focus on one match at a time.

"It would be a big mistake for us to take things for granted," he wrote in a blog on the club website.

"When you take things seriously and fight in all competitions, you need to multiply your efforts, be smart and avoid getting distracted. The team are showing that and we want to keep the same way."

Striker Wayne Rooney is still struggling with a muscle injury and will miss today's match. The United skipper could also miss Sunday's League Cup final against Southampton at Wembley.

Rooney, United's all-time top scorer, has not played since the start of this month and missed Sunday's FA Cup fifth-round win over Blackburn.

"I don't know," Mourinho said when asked if Rooney would be fit to face Southampton.

Mourinho also ruled defender Phil Jones out of United's match at Saint-Etienne.

"Rooney is injured. Jones is injured. I don't think they will recover," the manager said. "Rooney and Jones haven't trained with the team yet so I don't think they will be there for Wednesday."

Saint-Etienne have not given up hope of causing a shock but their 2-1 defeat at Montpellier on Sunday has dragged them into a tight dog-fight in the battle to qualify for next year's Europa League. They are fifth in Ligue 1 - level on points with Marseille and Bordeaux and four behind local rivals Lyon.

Ensuring European football next term will likely be their priority.

Saint-Etienne manager Christophe Gautier admitted after the Montpellier defeat that he has "some choices to make for the next matches".



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Mourinho set to rotate his squad for trip to Saint-Etienne'. Print Edition | Subscribe