Vigo (Spain) (AFP) – Manchester United’s injury crisis has eased in time for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final, first leg at Celta Vigo as Jose Mourinho confirmed Paul Pogba, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are fit to return in Spain.
Mourinho will also have Eric Bailly and Juan Mata available to compensate for the season-ending injuries suffered by top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw.
However, the Portuguese blamed United’s injury problems on their struggles to secure a top four place in the Premier League and insisted winning the Europa League is now his priority to secure Champions League qualification next season.
“In relation to Premier League I think it is too late because in April we played nine matches, seven of them in the Premier League and we had too many problems,” said Mourinho on Wednesday.
“Too many players absent and because of that we had players who had to play 750 or 800 minutes of football and we paid a price when we played against fresh teams.
“In this moment the perspective is different because the Europa League becomes even more important for us and it is good to have three players back that give us more options.”
However, Mourinho believes there is also prestige to be gained from becoming only the fifth European club to complete the set of winning all four major European trophies.
Only Ajax, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Juventus have won all of the Champions League, Europa League, the now defunct Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
And he threatened to field a weakened team on Sunday at Arsenal despite being just a point local rivals Manchester City in the battle for the top four in the Premier League.
“It is the only competition that Manchester United has never won and it would be good to close the cycle and say we have won every competition as a club,” added Mourinho.
“It would be important for us as a team and allows us to play Champions League next season.
“The Europa League becomes for us now more important.
“It depends on the result tomorrow, but if we have to rest players next weekend we are going to do it.”
– Celta focused on Europe –
By contrast, Celta’s mid-table position in La Liga has allowed Eduardo Berizzo to rest his key players over recent weeks to concentrate solely on reaching their first ever European final.
“Because of their comfortable situation in La Liga they manage to think only about Europa League, rest players, to be in the maximum of their condition, so it is a difficult match for us,” added Mourinho.
And Berizzo promised to go for United’s throats in an attempt to put the tie to bed before next Thursday’s return leg at Old Trafford.
“The team has found an identity and respects that identity.
“It has brought us this far the way of playing with a lot of possession, pressing high to win the ball back quickly and spending as much time on the attack as possible.”
The contrast in history between the sides couldn’t be starker as Celta chase the first major trophy in their history.
And Berizzo recognised his players feel a responsibility not just to themselves but all of the Galician city in Spain’s north-west.
“It is a dream not just of the team but of a whole city,” added the Argentine coach.
“There is palpable excitement to make the dream become reality tomorrow.”
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