Jose Mourinho will go easy on his Manchester United players in their final two Premier League matches this season and says Paul Pogba is not ready to play.
United have three games left this term – Southampton away on Wednesday, Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Sunday, and then the Europa League final with Ajax next Wednesday – the latter of which you can see for free.
The clash in Stockholm will be United’s 64th match of an epic season and it’s clear to all that that’s where the United manager’s focus lies.
Mourinho says he is having to do “a la carte” preparation for his players, juggling rest, preparation and matches.
“Sometimes you need a day off and they don’t know what a day off is,” he said.
“So this is a period in one week when I have to give one day off and now I give a day off to (Antonio) Valencia. It has to be.
“And against Crystal Palace two or three more and against Southampton two or three more and that’s to try to arrive in the final in the best possible conditions.”
Mourinho wants to win both league matches but is not getting strung up on the outcome, given victory against Ajax is the overriding goal.
“What I want for the players is a good attitude, is a positive attitude, a positive approach, is team spirit, is understanding that some guys they have to sacrifice themselves for the good of others,” the United boss said of the Saints and Palace matches.
“(Daley) Blind played today after 90 minutes on Thursday. The next one, of course, (Marouane) Fellaini has to play the next one.
“Team spirit, empathy and the fantastic attitude that everybody has is not one more victory, one more point, one more defeat that is going to change something.
“A final is a final and we have to go to the final with everything like Ajax does because they have finished the season and they do not have any more football to play until the final.”
Pogba given unconditional leave
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Tim Fosu-Mensah miss both of United’s remaining Premier League matches through injury, while Mourinho is expecting to be without Paul Pogba at Southampton after the midfielder’s father died on Friday.
“I don’t think (he will be available),” Mourinho said. “I think that his dad’s funeral has to be between Tuesday and Wednesday in France.
“I don’t think that Paul has the conditions to play. We have left him completely free to be back when he thinks he’s ready.”