José Mourinho hits out at Premier League as Manchester United draw Anderlecht

Paul Wilson
The Guardian
<span class="element-image__caption">José Mourinho during Manchester United’s win over Rostov.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters</span>
José Mourinho during Manchester United’s win over Rostov. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

José Mourinho has accused the Premier League of lacking in “common sense” for refusing to allow sides who are scheduled to play in European competition more to time to prepare after Manchester United were drawn against Anderlecht in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

United travel to Middlesbrough on Sunday less than 72 hours after their 1-0 victory over Rostov on Thursday night which confirmed their qualification for the last eight. Having blamed the crowded fixture schedule for causing the hamstring injury which has ruled Paul Pogba out of the trip to the Riverside, Mourinho then took aim at the Premier League for failing to provide its clubs with adequate support to prepare for matches.

“I don’t understand why we don’t receive any help from the Premier League in relation to European football,” he said.

“We now have to play Middlesbrough at 12 o’clock on Sunday. Why? It should be Monday night, or at least the last game on Sunday. Every other country gives its support to teams playing in Europe but I don’t think the Premier League gives an ‘S’.

“When I was in Italy if you had a Champions League game coming up you could move your league match the previous weekend to Friday night,” Mourinho added. “In Portugal a team playing on the Wednesday in Europe could play its next domestic game on the Monday. This never happens here, and it makes no sense. Nobody can give me an explanation of why we are playing this Sunday at 12 o’clock.

“I get the idea that the Premier League just expects everyone to be grateful for all the money it makes. But with a little common sense things could be better for everyone. Aren’t we good enough in the Premier League to have more teams in Europe at this stage? I don’t ask for me, but for all the English teams. Is the Premier League happy to have just one English club in the Champions League and one in the Europa League?”

United will travel to Brussels to face Anderlecht in the first leg of their quarter-final on 13 April, with the second match at Old Trafford a week later. At present, United are scheduled to travel to Sunderland on Sunday, 9 April before hosting Chelsea at Old Trafford on the 16th

Mourinho’s position is made more acute by the knowledge that with United in sixth, and hoping to break into the top four by the end of the season, all five teams ahead of him are now free of European commitments and able to concentrate on their domestic programmes.

“We have played 11 matches in the last six weeks and it is going to get worse for us and easier for the other five teams,” he said. “It is not just Chelsea and Liverpool any more; Arsenal, Tottenham and City are all out too.”

In City’s case that may not be an immediate advantage if disappointment lingers from their last-16 exit and affects league form, but Mourinho is convinced tiredness played a part in United’s laboured performance against Rostov, not least in contributing to the overstretched hamstring that could keep Pogba out for three weeks. “It was an accumulation of fatigue,” Mourinho said. “Paul was already feeling something in the first half – even a physical monster like him is not immune to it. He is another who has been playing in every game. We tried to rest him in the Cup tie at Blackburn but he had to come on, and now he is paying the price.”

Europa League quarter-final draw in full:

Anderlecht v Manchester United, Celta Vigo v Genk, Ajax v Schalke, Lyon v Besiktas. Ties to be played 13 and 20 April.

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