José Mourinho has defended his decision to field a weakened team against Arsenal this afternoon, saying that the Manchester United side he picks will “fight for a result” at the Emirates Stadium.
United, who beat Celta Vigo 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday, are a place and five points ahead of Arsenal (who have a game in hand) and Mourinho said he is aiming to extend that gap with a win, despite the intention to rest several players.
“We are going to try,” said Mourinho. “We are not going to Arsenal to say ‘beat us’ or ‘beat us 5-0 or 6-0: we are going there to fight for a result. But it’s impossible not to rest players. I cannot do it in another way.
“If Celta was playing with their best team, if Celta was fighting for important things in La Liga, we would go in the same circumstances.
“But I cannot now play with the same team that played at Celta. And then repeat it again on Thursday. So, we have to be human with the players, we have to be sensible and [use] common sense in relation to our situation in the Premier League, and I think the last match against Swansea (a 1-1 draw) was our last chance to fight for a top-four place, so I am going to rest players, sure.”
Mourinho also welcomed Arsène Wenger’s wish for peace by stating there was no problem between them.
The pair has endured a fraught relationship since the Portuguese entered English football as Chelsea manager in 2004 but on Thursday Wenger had said: “I am open always in life to everything, for peace.”
Mourinho, after the game in Vigo, said: “He doesn’t need to say he is ready to make peace. He doesn’t need to because there are no problems.
“In the last match at Old Trafford (a 1-1 draw in November), we shook hands before, after – I remember that I still met him in the corridor for the Press conferences, we shook hands again.
“So for me not a problem at all and I think he will be really pleased with me that I am going to change my team against Arsenal. I think he’ll be really happy with me.”
The two managers have a history of clashing.
In October 2005 Mourinho branded Wenger a “voyeur” and suggested the Frenchman should concentrate on Arsenal rather than take too much of an interest in Chelsea.
In October 2014 at Stamford Bridge, Wenger pushed Mourinho following a tackle by Gary Cahill on Alexis Sánchez, leading the Portuguese to say: “I told him: ‘Here you do that, you know I can’t react, but I will meet you one day in the street.
Earlier that year he described Wenger as a “specialist in failure” after the Arsenal manager claimed Mourinho was playing down Chelsea’s title hopes because “they fear to fail”.
Despite this history Mourinho said: “He doesn’t need to make peace. When there is peace, we don’t have to have a problem. I am a big boy, I’m in football all my life, I know a problem on the pitch the next day is not a problem at all.”
Mourinho also suggested David de Gea could play in the Europa League final should United reach it despite Sergio Romero being the regular number one in the tournament so far.
“I don’t like to say this competition is for one goalkeeper, that competition is for another one,” he said. “Sergio played one match in the Premier League, David played two matches in the Europa League against Fenerbahce and against Feyenoord, Sergio played also one match in the League Cup, David played the other matches and played the final. I don’t like that complete separation.
“But Sunday (today), David plays. We have two fantastic goalkeepers, we have a third goalkeeper that I think will be the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation (Joel Pereira). We have great goalkeepers and (against) anyone in the world I trust (them) completely.” – The Guardian (UK)
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