Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was not a happy man despite his team progressing to the semi-finals of the Europa League after a 2-1 extra-time win over Anderlecht on Thursday, which came at the cost of injuries to defender Marcos Rojo and star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Portuguese said he does not feel good about both the injuries, but did not want to give a verdict until doctors had assessed them. Rojo was taken off on a stretcher halfway into the first half after injuring his knee, while Ibrahimovic hobbled off after falling heavily on his knee minutes before the game entered extra-time.
“I want to wait but my feeling is not good, for both,” Mourinho said, when asked how long the pair might be out. “I want to try to be optimistic, but I’m not. I don’t think they are easy injuries but I prefer to wait until all the tests are done tomorrow. After tomorrow then I can speak what I feel because I am a manager, not a doctor.”
The injury to Rojo means that Eric Bailly is the only one out of United’s four central defenders who is currently not carrying an injury. Mourinho asked for Chris Smalling, who also has a knee problem, and Phil Jones, who is nursing a toe injury, to step up for the team’s cause.
“We have Daley Blind, and it is time for Jones and Smalling to be brave, to risk, because for the team you have the do everything,” he said. Asked how soon Smalling and Jones might return, Mourinho said jokingly, “If it was me, tomorrow. But no, they cannot do miracles. But rather than mid-May make it early May.”
‘Dream to win’
United were stretched by Anderlecht on Thursday, despite opening the scoring early via Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the 10th minute. The Belgian side equalised via Sofiane Hanni in the first half itself, before the two teams battled it out for the rest of regulation time in search of a winner. In the end, United needed an extra-time winner from Marcus Rashford to seal the tie, but not before experiencing some nervy moments with the Belgians throwing the kitchen sink at them.
“It was a difficult game, a difficult opponent,” Mourinho said. “I am tired, I imagine the players are more tired than me, but we are in the [semi-final] draw [on Friday] and we still have the dream to win the competition.”
United joined Ajax, Lyon, and Celta Vigo in the last four of the competition, with Mourinho saying neither of those opponents will be easy to play considering Anderlecht’s spirited display. “We had [on Thursday] an example of how difficult it is [in the Europa League] and we now have a Spanish team, a French team and Ajax [in the semi-final draw], so we are not expecting anything easy.”
Mourinho also reiterated that United will battle for Champions League on both fronts – the Premier League and the Europa League. United currently lie fifth in the Premier League table, four points behind fourth-place Manchester City, with a game in hand. The Red Devils travel to Burnley on Sunday in the Premier League.
“We keep trying,” Mourinho said. “While mathematically it is possible [to finish in the top four] in the Premier League, we have to fight for it. If one day it is not mathematically possible we have to put everything in the Europa League because the Europa League is an important title and on top of that the bonus of playing in the Champions League.”