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Friday 23 June 2017

Jose: 'Four fronts battle could kill us'

United boss wary that progress in Cups will impact on top four bid

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is pictured at training ahead of tonight’s Europa League clash with St Etienne.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is pictured at training ahead of tonight’s Europa League clash with St Etienne.

Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United will end up "in trouble" if they continue to fight on all fronts.

Tonight's Europa League last-32 first leg against St Etienne kicks off a frantic 11-day period as the second leg in France comes after an FA Cup tie at Blackburn and is followed by the small matter of the League Cup final against Southampton.

There will be little let-up if United emerge victorious from that run of matches as more fixtures would leave them with a bloated, uneven schedule.

Mourinho believes balancing domestic and European exertions will stretch his squad and ultimately hamper their chances of success - not that he will allow his side to take their foot off the gas.

"We cannot choose the competitions at Manchester United," the United boss said on the eve of welcoming St Etienne. "We know that our situation is really complicated.

Difficult

"We know that the Europa League is also a competition where we play on Thursdays and that makes it even more difficult for us.

"The accumulation of FA Cup, League Cup, match postponements is really hard for us.

"If we progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble in April and May. But we cannot choose competitions, so we play them to win.

"I think it's also a good way to give the team experience and international experience is always a plus.

"Europa League is not a competition we want to play, but it's a competition we play and we respect it."

Mourinho is desperate to return United to Europe's top table, but believes Champions League qualification through the league will be harder to secure than for others as cup progress will "create many, many problems".

"We know that it's going to be very difficult," the United boss said, with just four points separating his side and second-placed Manchester City.

"We know obviously it can have an impact in the Premier League because we are competing against teams in other circumstances.

"For example, Liverpool play only in the Premier League, Chelsea in the Premier League and the FA Cup. We have still Tottenham in a similar situation as us, but we want to progress. That's the point.

"We prefer difficult but progressing to easy and being knocked out of the competitions.

"We will go seriously for this game and seriously against Blackburn on Sunday."

Luke Shaw will be hoping to be involved at Ewood Park having been overlooked for tonight's match, while Phil Jones, out with a foot complaint, will want to face his former club.

Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick will not be risked against St Etienne, but Mourinho plans to name a strong side - and risk the wrath of Paul Pogba's mum.

Thursday's match against Les Verts pits the world's most expensive player against his older brother Florentin, leaving the Pogba family hoping for a draw.

"We spoke in a good way, a funny way," Mourinho said of Paul. "I think it is a good, nice destiny.

"I think only mum Pogba is a little bit in trouble, which is normal. It's difficult for the lady to choose - it's not difficult, it's impossible!

"I know from Paul that the mum wants a draw, but next week one son will be happy and another one will be sad.

"But I think for the mum it's a bit of a problem, but they will enjoy playing against each other. Paul is excited, Florentin for sure the same. I think it's a good thing."

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