Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho along with Matteo Darmian briefed the media ahead of the UEFA Europa League group stage clash with Fenerbahçe in Istanbul on Thursday evening. A fortnight ago, United beat the Turkish side 4-1 at Old Trafford in a match which saw two penalties; scored by Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, a second stunning goal for Pogba followed by a Jesse Lingard effort in the comfortable victory. Fenerbahçe managed to find a consolation goal, scored by former United striker Robin van Persie, which is something the home supporters celebrated with cheers of ‘Oh Robin van Persie’, with the Dutchman thankful for his former clubs support, a club he still calls home, which is funny as he spent much longer at Arsenal. Mourinho had already named a 21-man squad which travelled to the former Turkish capital earlier on Wednesday morning. Here are the main points from the press conference.
Matteo Darmian on Manchester United’s opposition on Thursday – Fenerbahçe and how they were there to win:
“We expect a very difficult game. We know it will be difficult because Fenerbahce is a good team with good players, so tomorrow we want to fight [for the win]. We are here to win – that’s it.”
Darmian now has a clear run of matches to gain the trust of his manager, but had sympathy for Antonio Valencia and his injury:
“Of course, I work a lot in the first part of the season and have to be ready when the manager gives me an opportunity. I feel sorry for Antonio for his injury. We wait on his recovery and I hope he can come back as soon as possible.”
Jose Mourinho was asked about his FA charge and the spat with Mark Clattenburg which saw him sent ot the stands on Saturday:
Mourinho on his Manchester United side bouncing back from their defeat to Feyenoord earlier in the season:
“If we lose in Feyenoord and in the next two matches we don’t have points, we would be in big trouble and we would be playing tomorrow, our last chance. By having six points out of six from our home matches, we have put ourselves in a positive position.”
Mourinho on Phil Jones who has returned to the squad after a lengthy injury:
“I almost don’t remember when Phil Jones had a good run of matches for United. He’s having a difficult relationship with the injuries. But he worked hard to recover – he’s training with the team for more than a week now. We are in a difficult situation because we lost three defenders in a week.”
— Simon Peach (@SimonPeach) November 2, 2016
Mourinho on Fenerbahçe’s defeat to Manchester United a fortnight ago and their current form:
“I don’t think Fenerbahce had a bad game. For more than half an hour, they were solid and the game was not easy for us. The fact that Fenerbahce has back to back victories is not a surprise. They have very good players and very experienced managers like Dick Advocaat. He plays players with experience of the highest level, the experience of international competitions.”
Mourinho on the UEFA Europa League:
“The Europa League winner has a direct spot in Champions League so for last couple of years Europa League has a different meaning for the big clubs. I won’t change my mind, the big clubs belong to the Champions League and the Champions League history belongs to the big clubs. Because of the direct spot in the Champions League, the Europa League is a big target for us.”
Mourinho on Manchester United challenge this season:
“What I’m happy with is the performances. Sometimes, you win matches but you feel that period cannot last forever because the team is not playing so well. Other times we don’t have good results but we feel that the way the team plays the good results have to arrive sooner or later. I have a very good feeling towards the players. After the bad result against Chelsea, the team reacted in an unbelievable way.”
Mourinho on Matteo Darmian filling the void for Antonio Valencia:
“He played really well in the last match against Burnley. He’s ready to play tomorrow and to give continuity of the good work our right backs are doing in both competitions. We trust him totally.”
Mourinho on Antonio Valencia and how long he feels he will be out of action:
“[Antonio] Valencia is a bad injury, he’s got a serious fracture in his arm, he’ll be out for a while. The good thing is, when Valencia was playing really well we were preparing Darmian who was having minutes to develop himself.”
Mourinho on Bastian Schweinsteiger returning to training at the start of the week:
“Schweinsteiger is back. We made that decision last Thursday. We phoned him last Friday so he could join the team last Monday. It was a decision based on fact that we are in a period of the season where it’s really difficult with everybody together.
“The problem of tactical work that I like to do with 21 players max, to have 23/24 at a time doesn’t happen. Looking at Bastian and the way he was working professionally every day with the fitness coach, we think it’s a professional decision to bring him back to the team.
“We will be much better prepared, much better conditions, in case his future decision is to leave the club. In this moment we have no problems in midfield like we do in defence. If we do have problems in midfield, he’s one option for us. It’s a decision that can be positive for the group.”
Mourinho on management offers he received and that he’s happy to be at Manchester United:
“I got an invitation to leave Porto and coach a Turkish club back in 2002/03. It didn’t happen. Since then, 13/14 years of football it never happened again. Now I’m where I want to be – so happy to be.
“In the minimum, I want to stay until the end of my contract. After that, who knows? I’m a football man, very young so. I love passion for the game and in Turkey there is huge passion for the game so why not?”
Manchester United need to start finding some form for their busy November where they face Fenerbahçe, Swansea City, Arsenal, Feyenoord and West Ham United twice. United have been playing well, be chances played into the opposition area have just not fallen for United. 37 shots on goal against Burnley with Tom Heaton making many saves, the woodwork saving Burnley too was just one of those days. Creativity is not a problem for United this season, it is all there. It is the finishing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic seems to have lost some form, and perhaps that will change once he has been given a rest and found his feet again. All strikers go through the same problems, but when it is a Manchester United player, the negativity seems to be much stronger, especially from the moronic few who ‘apparently’ support the club, yet tweet abuse at the players in a pathetic manner.
Bastian Schweinsteiger returned to first team training, but as Mourinho clarified, his position outside of the team still will not change. He has been brought into the first team training system to up the numbers and make things easier. It will help him gain some fitness in a team scenario, and should he decide to leave the club in January, or next summer, he will be ready to leave and will have done his bit with the first team. Mourinho clarified that the midfield situation at the club is fine, United have Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, not to mention Timothy Fosu-Mensah who came on as a midfielder against Fenerbahçe a fortnight ago at Old Trafford. That said, Schweinsteiger returning to the field in a Manchester United shirt again will depend on many injuries being suffered at the same time. That won’t appease many fans as the reported U-Turn is not one as such, more of an ‘upping the numbers in training’ reason for him to be brought back in, and rightly so.