Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho rued the “poisoned gift” of his side’s fixture schedule as he contemplated a potentially seismic run of matches in October.
United got their Europa League campaign off the ground with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on Thursday and host Group A leaders Fenerbahce in their next game on October 20.
Prior to that, they face a Monday night match at arch rivals Liverpool, with a trip to Chelsea, in the Premier League, and a crunch game against Manchester City in the League Cup to follow.
“We could play Liverpool on the Saturday or the Sunday. We play Liverpool on the Monday,” said Mourinho, whose side are level on points in Group A with Feyenoord.
“So maybe we don’t have the best conditions, especially because we play against two top Premier League teams that don’t play in European competition (Liverpool and Chelsea).
“We have this kind of poisoned gift of playing on the Monday that creates a very difficult situation. But we want to try to qualify for the next round. We want to try.
“Long time to go, almost a month. But we want to try so we play against Fenerbache with a team with possibilities to beat Fenerbahce.”
United struggled to break down a well drilled Zorya team, who were playing their first game against English opposition after finishing fourth in the Ukrainian Premier League last season.
Mourinho conceded that United’s win had been “hard work” and while he praised Zorya’s defensive organisation, he bemoaned what he saw as their delaying tactics.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed home a 69th-minute winner after substitute Wayne Rooney’s mishit volley, which struck his knee, hit the ground and looped towards the back post.
– Ibrahimovic ‘expects more’ –
“He was laughing and saying that he made a great assist,” Mourinho said of Rooney, who started on the bench for the second game running after overcoming a back problem.
Ibrahimovic has now scored six goals in 10 appearances for United since his close-season switch from Paris Saint-Germain.
“If you want to go through, you need to win the game. We did that,” said the Swedish striker.
“We could have done much more though and I expect much more from the team. We did not score as we did against Leicester, but it is good for confidence.
“If we continue this and step it up, we will do good.”
United had strolled to a 4-1 win over league champions Leicester City last weekend, having lost their three previous matches.
They entertain Stoke City, the Premier League’s second-bottom side, on Sunday and Mourinho warned against reading too much into the league position of Mark Hughes’s team.
“Let us concentrate on Stoke because Stoke is another poisoned gift,” he said.
“Because Stoke is not what the table sees. The manager is very good, the players are good, the team is good.
“So when I look to the table, that’s not Stoke’s position. I play against a good Stoke and not the Stoke that is in that position in the table.”
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