Jose Mourinho doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. We all know that. He does whatever he can to bring success to his teams.
[ MORE: United’s injury boost ]
That’s why Manchester United’s manager will potentially field a weakened side at Arsenal on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as he continues to prioritize the UEFA Europa League over the Premier League.
[ PREVIEW: Celta vs. Man United ]
Speaking ahead of United’s Europa League semifinal first leg at Celta Vigo on Thursday, Mourinho revealed his plan to manage his banged up squad as the games continue to come thick and fast.
“Thinking about us, as a team, it would be a good achievement [to win the Europa League] with so many problems we’ve had, and it would allows us to be back in the Champions League next season, we have to try and that’s what we going to do,” Mourinho said. “The Europa League for us now becomes more important. Of course, it depends on the result, depends on the way we analyse the situation after the match. But if we have to rest players next weekend, we’re going to do that.”
With Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata all back fit for the Celta Vigo game, Mourinho may well go all-out to finish that two-legged encounter in the first leg as the Red Devils are the heavy favorites against the midtable La Liga side.
In his quest to guide United back to the UEFA Champions League in his debut season at Old Trafford, should he really be prioritizing winning the Europa League over finishing in the top four?
It is a big risk for Mourinho.
After all, despite all of their injury issues and many draws (14, the highest in the Premier League) they are 25 games unbeaten in the PL and with four games to go they’re just one point off the top four. With games against Arsenal, Tottenham, Southampton and Crystal Palaces still to come and their rivals for a top four place, Liverpool and Man City, having easier schedules to end the season, it’s easy to see why Mourinho would priortitze the Europa League.
His team need to get through two games against Celta Vigo and then against Ajax (most likely, they lead Lyon 4-1 after the first leg of their semifinal yesterday in Amsterdam) in Stockholm on May 24 to lift the Europa League and gain a place in the Champions League.
The fact that the Europa League final is three days after the PL season finishes is the main issue here. Is Mourinho really willing to put everything on the line in a one-off game against Ajax? It’s an intriguing, and difficult, situation for him to manage.
That’s why they pay him the big bucks and that’s why he called himself “The Special One” manager years ago.
If United end the season with an EFL Cup, Europa League title and a place in the Champions League next season, Mourinho would deem it an incredibly successful campaign.