Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has not gambled with the club’s season by prioritising Europa League success over a top-four finish in the Premier League, he said on Wednesday.
Mourinho has given up on United’s hopes of securing Champions League qualification via the league and fielded a weakened team in last Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.
United are 1-0 up ahead of the home leg of their Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo on Thursday and with victory in the tournament yielding a Champions League slot, Mourinho says his choices were entirely rational.
“The situation is simple. Seventeen matches in seven weeks with 16 players is impossible. It was not a gamble. It was a simple decision,” he told reporters at Old Trafford.
“It was a decision based on common sense. Seventeen matches in seven weeks, April and May. Seventeen matches with 16 players is completely impossible.
“We lost four players in one week, when we lost (Chris) Smalling and (Phil) Jones in the (England) national team and (Marcos) Rojo and Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) against Anderlecht (in the previous round).
“After that we lost boys that could be alternatives: Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah. When we lost these players in a period of 17 matches in seven weeks, it was the impossible job.
“It was not a gamble, just a consequence of our situation.”
Mourinho has already led United to victory in the League Cup, but they lie four points off the Champions League places with three matches of the Premier League season remaining.