Mourinho urges United to 'play to win' at Stoke

LONDON • Manchester United's visit to Stoke today offers Jose Mourinho's side the chance to exorcise some bad memories as they look to reel in the English Premier League's top four.

United's lowest point of last season came in this fixture when, amid fevered speculation about Louis van Gaal's future as manager, they performed woefully and slipped to a 2-0 Boxing Day defeat.

However, the Red Devils are on the rise at the moment, having gone 16 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

Despite that run, United have remained in sixth place for more than two months, but having been nine points adrift of the top four in early December, that gap has been reduced to four.

Mourinho said at his pre-match conference yesterday that he will not be focusing on his side's unbeaten run when they take on Stoke, instead stressing that winning is his priority.

"I don't care about the unbeaten run. We will not play any match to extend an unbeaten run to 20 or even more," the Portuguese said.

"We want to win matches, we try to win matches, we risk to win matches. We play to win."

He also hinted that there will be no signings in this month's transfer window, following the departures of Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay to Everton and Lyon respectively.

"I always think the best time is the summer market. I always consider the January market as an emergency one where you can try to resolve some problems, where they can try to give a little boost to the team but it's not an easy market, I have to admit that," he added.

The United manager has virtually a full squad to choose from, with the only significant absentee being defender Eric Bailly, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast.

Stoke earned a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford this season in October - a match in which Mourinho's side paid the price for failing to take their chances.

United midfielder Michael Carrick has pointed to that fixture as a warning they must not be caught out again.

"Stoke have got some very good players and we know it's probably not the same going there now as it was seven or eight years ago," the 35-year-old said.

"I think (Stoke manager) Mark Hughes has brought in players that are technically very good and can play some exciting football.

"But I think we're right in there. We've had a good run, we had a little setback at the weekend (drawing 1-1 with Liverpool) but it's important to get back to winning and getting that run again."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

STOKE V MANCHESTER UNITED

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'Mourinho urges United to 'play to win' at Stoke'. Print Edition | Subscribe