Mourinho accuses rivals of mind games

Romelu Lukaku holding off Viktor Vasin to volley in Manchester United's equaliser against CSKA Moscow from Paul Pogba's pass. Marcus Rashford scored the winner for United to enter the Champions League last 16 as group winners.
Romelu Lukaku holding off Viktor Vasin to volley in Manchester United's equaliser against CSKA Moscow from Paul Pogba's pass. Marcus Rashford scored the winner for United to enter the Champions League last 16 as group winners.PHOTO: REUTERS

United boss bitter over 'truth' of fitness claims by Guardiola and Wenger about key players

LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has aimed a subtle dig at Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger by declaring he would tell only "the truth" about the fitness of his players.

United, who beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 on Tuesday to reach the Champions League knockout rounds for the first time since 2013-14, face Guardiola's Manchester City on Sunday seeking to cut their eight-point lead in the Premier League.

Mourinho suggested Guardiola was being less than truthful by expressing doubts about the fitness of David Silva and hinted Wenger had done the same regarding Alexandre Lacazette prior to United's 3-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday.

Asked to provide a fitness update on his squad, Mourinho told reporters at Old Trafford: "Do you want the truth? The truth is Eric Bailly no chance for the weekend. Phil Jones a chance. (Marouane) Fellaini a chance. Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) a big chance and (Nemanja) Matic is injured, but will play for sure. I'm telling the truth. He's injured, but he'll play for sure.

"(Michael) Carrick no chance. It's the truth, eh? No stories of Lacazette, David Silva. All the truth."

Wenger ruled Lacazette out of Arsenal's meeting with United last weekend due to a groin injury, only for the French striker to play 90 minutes and score his side's goal.

Mourinho joked that Arsenal's medical team had performed an "amazing" feat by turning Lacazette "from a no to a complete 90 minutes".

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    Run of games played at Old Trafford in all competitions during which Manchester United are unbeaten.

Silva, meanwhile, was left out of City's squad for their Champions League game at Shakhtar Donetsk yesterday owing to an unspecified injury, with Guardiola saying he does not know if the Spaniard will be fit for the trip to Old Trafford.

United will on Sunday seek to extend their unbeaten run of home victories in all competitions to 41.

Their club-record streak was threatened by CSKA late in the first half after Vitinho's shot from Mario Fernandes' cut-back struck team-mate Alan Dzagoev on its way into the net. At first glance, the Russian appeared to be offside, but replays showed he had been played onside by Daley Blind, who had slid off the pitch as he attempted to cut out Fernandes' pass.

United turned the game around with two goals in two minutes from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford to progress to the last 16 as Group A winners.

The Red Devils will be hopeful that Lukaku's equaliser - a clinical volleyed finish after he was set up by Paul Pogba - will lead to another scoring spree. The Belgium striker began his United career with 11 goals in 10 games but Tuesday's goal was only his second in 13 subsequent matches and a first meaningful strike since September.

"For a striker to score a goal it gives him positive energy as well - he needs this," Frenchman Pogba told Sky Sports. CSKA dropped into the Europa League after Basel beat Benfica 2-0 to join United in the knockout stages.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2017, with the headline 'Mourinho accuses rivals of mind games'. Print Edition | Subscribe