BURNLEY, England (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said he was prioritising the Europa League despite his team being able to jump above Manchester City into the fourth Champions League qualification spot with a win in Thursday’s derby.
United’s 2-0 win at Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday brings them within a point of fourth-placed City ahead of the derby clash at the Etihad Stadium.
But with the games coming thick and fast and injuries taking a toll on his team, Mourinho said he would rotate his squad again with an eye on the May 4 Europa League, semi-final, first-leg at Spanish club Celta Vigo.
Asked about the chance to overtake City with a win in the derby, the Portuguese said: ”But if we beat Celta we go to the final.
”Yes it is important for us to play in the Champions League but this club wants trophies. We cannot give the club the Premier League. We have a 25 percent chance to win the Europa League and we have to put everything on it.
”I will rotate the players again, I will rest some players again
“At least in terms of expectation for the game, the emotions, it is better a derby with one point difference than with four,” he said.
One player who could be missing on Thursday is French midfielder Paul Pogba who was replaced at the end of Sunday’s game.
“Dead he is for sure,” said Mourinho, “If he is injured or if it is just super accumulation of fatigue in the muscles I don’t know. But if he cannot play Thursday, he cannot play Thursday. Another one plays and we don’t cry,” he said.
Having lost top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a serious knee injury in Thursday’s Europa League win over Anderlecht, Mourinho was particularly pleased with the way Anthony Martial played in attack.
“(Martial) was very good, with the ball and without the ball in the middle of two strong central midfielders, without anyone in behind him because we had no number ten just behind him. He was quite distant from our midfielders, he was very good,” he said.
The United manager also praised the performance of Eric Bailly at the centre of defence but repeated his call for injured defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to speed up their recovery.
“(Bailly) was incredible. If I was Smalling or Jones, I would play Thursday. I wouldn’t accept one guy to play nine matches in a row because I am injured. I would do a last push,” he said.
Asked if that was a realistic expectation of the pair, Mourinho added: ”If they have a crazy mentality like I have, they would (play); if they are safe thinking and they are surrounded by people with the same mentality as they have, it takes more time, it is more cautious.
“If it was me, nobody would stop me playing”.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris