Press Conference Analysis: Mourinho talks Manchester United's group, Schweinsteiger's future and squad depth
As expected, one of the key topics of conversation was the Europa League draw which took place just before Jose Mourinho started his press conference. The Red Devils were drawn up against Fenerbahce, Feyenooord and Zorya Luhansk in Group A, with the campaign kicking off on 15th September with a trip to Rotterdam. An easier draw than some sides were afforded, but with a tricky trip to Turkey, Mourinho acknowledged that the ties ahead would not be easy:
“We think we are in Champions League, very similar groups in the Champions League. It is difficult group but it is good. It’s a big match to play in Istanbul as it is in Rotterdam – it’s good for us.”
However, like most footballing fans, Mourinho admitted to knowing little about Ukranian side Zorya Luhansk. The side finished fourth in the Ukranian Premier League last term under Yuriy Vernydub and will be competing in the European group stage for the first time having been knocked out in the qualifying rounds in the two previous seasons. Mourinho confessed:
“The Ukrainian team I don’t have a vision of them or their qualities.”
Whilst fans will be disappointed to miss out on the Champions League, the prospect of a Robin Van Persie return with Fenerbahce will add some compensation, and a fierce rival will return to Old Trafford as Liverpool fan favourite Dirk Kuyt captains his boyhood club Feyenoord.
With the transfer window nearing its close and Bastian Schweinsteiger still rotting away in the reserves, Mourinho was asked about the German’s future. United will be desperate to avoid having one of the club’s top earners raking in a wage without making any impact on the first team, but Mourinho admitted that it is likely to be the case. When asked if Schweinsteiger could play for the club again, he said:
“I think it’s very difficult to happen. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying its very difficult because we have made a decision made about Pogba, Herrera, Schneiderlin, Fellaini and Carrick, we have five players for two positions, so it’s very difficult for an opportunity to arise.”
It is hardly a surprise, with virtually no relationship left between the 32-year-old and his new boss. Schweinsteiger is likely to be lacking in fitness having missed out on a full pre-season and would be playing catch-up alongside his teammates. As long as the club can avoid an injury crisis in midfield, it seems he has made his last appearance in the United colours. That said, Mourinho does not know where his future lies, and seemed keen to shirk the responsibility of getting rid of the World Cup winner:
“I cannot answer for him. It’s his life, his career, he has a contract with Man United. He has a right to make that decision and stay, so that’s not a problem for us. Football is made of decisions. I did that all my career. Not just me, everyone does, but some players react in a different way.”
The club has been one of the most active in the Premier League this summer transfer window, with over £150 million spent on bringing in the likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Henrik Mkhitaryan. Outgoings are now expected to help balance the books, but with only a few days until the window closes, Mourinho has reassured his players, saying:
“I think we’re going to have a very quiet week, not surrounded by helicopters, waiting for somebody to leave or to arrive, so I am more than happy with the squad I have.”
Mourinho also made a point of discussing the role that the club’s academy will play in his squad this season, having come in for criticism for signing a number of players at or past their peak, and selling or loaning out many of the club’s young talents. The former Porto boss made it clear that they would play a role and would be good back-up to his squad in the season to come:
“I have 23 players in the squad and, in principle, there is nobody leaving and nobody is coming. It’s more than enough and if you have a problem or an opportunity then I have a few young players in the Academy that I will be more than happy to give them an acceleration in their process.”
Mourinho also reserved praise for this weekend’s opponents, Hull City, in the Saturday evening kick-off. Caretaker manager Mike Phelan was once a key figure on the Old Trafford touchline, and Mourinho recognised that when he praised the Tigers’ boss on his start to the season:
“He is experienced, he knows football. He knows how to organise a team to get results, and they are getting results, they are a difficult team.”
It’s clear that Mourinho will need his stars to be at the top of their game if his side are to maintain their 100% record in an early season top of the table clash as second come up against third.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne.
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