Think about this for a moment. The Daily Mail: “Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has defended his decision to rotate his team against Arsenal after claiming that 17 matches in seven weeks is ‘impossible’.
Mourinho made eight changes to the side that beat Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final last Thursday for the trip to Arsenal at the weekend, with the 2-0 loss all but ending Champions League hopes via the Premier League.
But Mourinho, speaking ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford, has stood by his decision to rotate his starting line-up at the Emirates Stadium.
‘The situation is simple; 17 matches in seven weeks with 16 players is impossible. It was not a gamble, it was a simple decision, a decision based on common sense. 17 matches in seven weeks, April and May, with 16 players is completely impossible.
‘We lost players, four in one week, when we lost Smalling and Jones in the national team and Rojo and Zlatan against Anderlecht.
After that we lost boys who were good alternatives… when we lost these players in a period of 17 matches in 7 weeks, it was the impossible job. It was not a gamble, but a consequence of our situation.
‘Let’s see if tomorrow we can do it. No matter what, we are giving everything we can. We have no regrets.’
We’re aiming to get into a European final, it’ll be very important to fight for the only trophy that the club has never won before, and for this group of players. We have just a little group with European success.
‘I think [Wayne] Rooney, [Michael] Carrick, [Ashley] Young are this group of English boys with a long time in the club [to have won titles] plus Mata [as part of another club] but most have not done it before.
‘We are going to prove tomorrow what we’ve been for the whole season which is to fight hard in match No 14 in the Europa League in order to reach the final.’
Should United reach the Europa League final in Stockholm later this month, it woulds in fact mean 16 games in the last two months of the season, but the schedule is still far more condensed than the club’s rivals for a Champions League spot.
Mourinho confirmed on Thursday that Young and Timothy Fosu-Mensah have joined Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in being ruled out for the rest of the season.
The former Chelsea manager spoke of the crowd needing to create a hostile atmosphere for their Galician opponents in the immediate aftermath of the the 1-0 win at the Estadio de Balaidos last week.
Mourinho said a week ago, ‘let’s hope Old Trafford wants the win because when Old Trafford wants it, we win.’
The 54-year-old has reiterated his stance on the mood at home games.
‘I see a difference between matches. I don’t think the atmosphere is consistent,’ he added. ‘Against Chelsea they wanted to play from the first minute to the last. The game against Anderlecht wasn’t warm enough to make a thrill, for a quarter-final.
‘But If we don’t qualify for the Champions League, it’s because we’re not good enough. We have just to focus on where we are and nobody has more motivation than I have to try and win tomorrow.’