Mourinho unhappy with revised FA Cup scheduling

SAINT-ETIENNE (France) • Jose Mourinho took a swipe at both Manchester City and the FA Cup fixture planners after Manchester United progressed to the last 16 of the Europa League with a win over Saint-Etienne that came at a crushing cost.

The United manager said that Henrikh Mkhitaryan (hamstring) and Michael Carrick (calf) have "no chance" of being fit for Sunday's League Cup final against Southampton after they limped out of Wednesday's round-of-32 game, which United won 1-0 - via a Mkhitaryan goal - to complete a 4-0 aggregate success.

Eric Bailly will also miss the first leg of the round-of-16 tie, the draw for which is made today, after he was sent off for two fouls within 185 seconds on Romain Hamouma.

The immediate loss of Carrick and Mkhitaryan is a big blow for Mourinho, who is on the verge of winning his first trophy at Old Trafford after taking his team on a run of just one defeat in 25 matches.

But the Portuguese feels that his chances of winning silverware are also being hindered by the Football Association and the BBC.

The two organisations on Wednesday announced that United's FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge has been moved to Monday, March 13, which falls just three days before the second leg of the club's last-16 tie.

Mourinho fears United could end up playing their next Europa game in a far-flung location such as the Russian city of Rostov - 3,128km from Manchester - just 72 hours after playing his old club Chelsea.

"I feel really surprised that the decision is made before our draw in Europe," he said.

"Imagine we play Chelsea on Monday and go to the second match in Europe in Russia, Turkey or Greece?

"Once more the interests are going (against) English football's interests, and nobody cares about it."

Mourinho fears that his players will be more susceptible to injury if such a scenario occurs. That will not force him to send out a reserve side at Chelsea, however.

He has made a point of criticising other managers for disrespecting the FA Cup by making so many alterations to their teams.

And he clearly feels that the then-City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, was guilty of overstepping the mark when he made 10 changes for his 5-1 defeat in the fifth round at Stamford Bridge last season, which came just three days before their Champions League game away to Dynamo Kiev.

"I cannot play against Chelsea with the second team or the Under-21s like Manchester City did last year," Mourinho said.

"We are Manchester United. I don't do that to the FA Cup because the FA Cup is not guilty of these decisions."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline 'Mourinho unhappy with revised FA Cup scheduling'. Print Edition | Subscribe