Jose Mourinho has ruled Paul Pogba out of Thursday’s Manchester derby in another bitter injury blow for the Manchester United manager.
Already without Juan Mata, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, Mourinho lost Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo to cruciate knee ligament injuries last week and will now be without Pogba for the trip to the Etihad Stadium in a potentially must win game for the club’s top four hopes.
Pogba was substituted in the 89th minute of Sunday’s 2-0 win at Burnley with muscle fatigue and Mourinho confirmed on Wednesday the world’s most expensive footballer would miss the game against Manchester City.
“Paul, no,” Mourinho said when asked about Pogba’s availability. The United manager did confirm that Antonio Valencia, rested against Burnley, was available.
“We go with what we have, we fight with what we have,” Mourinho said. “I trust the boys and we go with everything we have until the last second of the season we hope, we are fighters, the boys are fighters and we go.”
Mourinho refused to be drawn on City’s travails under Pep Guardiola this season and said he was only bothered about meeting his own targets. The Europa League, where United face Celta Vigo in the semi-finals, offers an alternative route into next season’s Champions League if they miss out on the top four.
“It means nothing,” Mourinho said when asked what it would mean to finish above City. “If you finish fifth and they finish sixth, we are above them but it means nothing. If they finish third and we finish fourth they are above us but it means a lot. This is not about Pep, this is not about City, this is about objectives and fighting for objectives. We want to try to play Champions League and we still have two doors open.”
Asked how many Manchester clubs he thinks will finish in top four, Mourinho replied: “I don’t know.”
Asked if he was confident United would finish above City, he added: “I don’t know.”
Mourinho reiterated his hope that Ibrahimovic would come back stronger from his injury but claimed it was a “waste of time” to think about the Swede’s Old Trafford future before planned surgery in the US.
“I don’t know,” Mourinho said when asked Ibrahimovic’s future at United. “I’m not interested in it, I don’t care about it, I just want the difficult surgery to go [well], we think he’s in fabulous hands, recover from the injury, prepare himself for the next step and I think the next step will always be something he really wants. In a period of doubts about his future, I always said he’s much more important than myself and what I want. It’s what he wants, I always want the players to be happy and choose their future and I think this is what is going to happen. But now, before such an important surgery, I think it’s a waste of time to speak about what next.
“The future is a big surgery, a long period of recovery but the future is also in the hands of a very strong guy, mentally very, very strong, who wrote immediately on his social media that he will stop when he wants, not when people think, so it looks to me he will not give up and will fight and I’m really pleased with that because that’s the Zlatan I know. He fought all his life, that’s what I told him, ‘You fought all your life since you were born, I don’t see a reason for not fighting [now].’”