United 'have no advantage'

Manchester United's manager Jose Mourinho at a press conference following a team training session, at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England on March 12, 2018.
Manchester United's manager Jose Mourinho at a press conference following a team training session, at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England on March 12, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Mourinho says qualification for q-finals not a given as he hits back at criticism by de Boer

LONDON • Manchester United may enjoy home ground advantage in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Sevilla today but manager Jose Mourinho admitted yesterday that the tie is evenly balanced.

The Portuguese's defensive tactics in a 0-0 first-leg draw in Spain three weeks ago came under much criticism as, without an away goal, a score draw would see the Spanish LaLiga side progress.

"Mourinho, look how hard it is to win when you don't want to," Spanish sports daily Marca said in a withering critique of his set-up.

Admitting that United have no "advantage", Mourinho said a pre-match press conference yesterday: "The first leg leaves everything open for tomorrow. I don't feel we have any advantage in this moment.

"We are going to try to show we are better, but I don't feel we have any advantage."

Mourinho believes United are still some way off the European elite, but believes from his experiences of winning the competition with Porto and Inter Milan that anything is possible if they make the last eight.

"I think we are not one of the best teams in the competition but, I think when a team arrives in the last eight, anything can happen," he said. "When you are in the last 16, it looks really, really far but, when a team gets in the last eight, you start smelling the semi-finals."

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

When you are in the last 16, it looks really, really far but, when a team gets in the last eight, you start smelling the semi-finals.

JOSE MOURINHO, admitting that Manchester United are not one of the best teams in Europe but believes he is experienced enough to guide them to glory.

Mourinho confirmed £89 million (S$162.4 million) club-record signing Paul Pogba trained yesterday, having missed their 2-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday with a gashed leg, but Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Phil Jones look set to miss out .

At the press conference, Mourinho also launched a stinging attack on Dutchman Frank de Boer after the former Crystal Palace coach criticised United's sparse use of Marcus Rashford.

Rashford scored twice in his first Premier League start of 2018 against Liverpool, but his manager still substituted the 21-year-old England forward 20 minutes from time as he looked to make the game safe.

"It's a pity that the manager is Mourinho because normally he's an English player, you want to give him time and he can then make mistakes," de Boer told BT Sport.

"But Mourinho is not like that. He wants to get results."

De Boer was sacked by Palace after just five games in charge in September having failed to register a point or score a goal in his four Premier League games in charge.

"I read some quote from the worst manager in the history of the Premier League, Frank de Boer," Mourinho said.

"Where he was saying it is not good for Marcus Rashford to have a coach like me because the most important thing for me is to win.

"If he was coached by Frank, he would learn how to lose because he lost every game."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2018, with the headline 'United 'have no advantage''. Print Edition | Subscribe