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Mourinho has good news for Man United's most exciting players

Man Utd have two fixtures this week and Jose Mourinho has promised to get ruthless vs Bournemouth and vs Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final

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Mourinho has good news for Man United's most exciting players

Man Utd have two fixtures this week and Jose Mourinho has promised to get ruthless vs Bournemouth and vs Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final

17 April 2018 Tuesday 13:29
Mourinho has good news for Man United's most exciting players

Rotation was the diplomatic noun of choice but the Manchester United manager was quick to correct this correspondent in the Old Trafford press room on Sunday.

"Rotating is not the right word," Jose Mourinho said, with the emphasis on 'not'. After witnessing another goalless home performance against West Brom, Mourinho had just about had his fill of diplomacy.

"Some of the guys that played today don't have a place in that team," he spat. He repeated just in case said players had misheard. "They don't have a place in that team."

'That team' is the FA Cup semi-final XI, a line-up that United's season hinges on. Mourinho got it badly wrong against Tottenham at Wembley in January but he would not like to see that happen again on Saturday. The FA Cup will determine whether this is a remotely successful second season for the Portuguese.

Going into that Spurs match, perhaps half-a-dozen players at the very most are safe of starting. Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku, the majority physical and functional footballers, should be assured of starts (David de Gea has not started an FA Cup tie), although it is perhaps churlish to speculate after Mourinho's ruthless response to an enquiry on his team selection.

"What is the criteria for a manager to choose a team?" he scotched.

"I only know one criteria, is the way they play. Is the only way I can select players.

"Or do you want me to go for the price they cost, or their salary, or their beautiful face? The only way is to go with performance."

Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata have been warned.

Mata seldom starts such elite encounters and his only inclusion against a top six outfit this term was versus Liverpool in what was maybe a move enforced upon Mourinho, given Pogba succumbed to injury the previous day.

The familiar quandary is who replaces him on the right, a role Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial nor Marcus Rashford relish.

Lingard erroneously dropped on Sunday, is a big-game goalscorer and could have the edge.

Ander Herrera's big-game pedigree may reprieve him. His three standout memories at United are the 2015 spring wins over Liverpool and City, as well as the Europa League final he was named man of the match in.

Herrera bossed United's rivals in those Premier League triumphs and he has also excelled against Arsenal, Tottenham, and Chelsea, providing match-winning moments in three victories.

United could have all 25 first-team squad members fit for the weekend, provided cup specialist Sergio Romero recovers from his collision with Diego Costa in Madrid.

Phil Jones returned to the matchday squad for the first time in over two months against West Brom and while his head bashing reaction to that lump of an own goal at Tottenham was the match's money moment, he has a justifiable claim to being United's best-performing centrehalf in a season where he has missed three months through injury.

Eric Bailly still seems more auspiciously poised to start with Smalling.

Martial came on against West Brom


"In terms of the way he played he was not worse than some of the others who were on the pitch for 90 minutes," Mourinho said of Pogba.

That should reassure United's one-time totem and Mourinho cannot justify a midfield trio of Herrera, Matic and Scott McTominay in a one-off knockout tie. Unless he is planning for penalties.

Mourinho's reference to 'some of the guys' means plural but not necessarily more than two. He made two changes to the City side against West Brom and reverting to the XI he relied on to spark that captivating comeback at the Etihad is feasible.

That would mean Bailly replacing Victor Lindelof and Mata making way for Lingard.

Treating the midweek trip to Bournemouth as a significant fixture was shrewd man-management. Mourinho rotated heavily during last season's run-in as the Europa League took precedent but places for the Stockholm final side remained unoccupied with a week to go.

Martial was infamously ineffectual during that period and Mourinho surprisingly opted for Mata against Ajax while Smalling was another eyebrow-raising inclusion.

One of Martial and Rashford should start at the Vitality Stadium while Rojo and Jones are also in desperate need of playing time.

Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind and Marouane Fellaini might remain grouped together in the Old Trafford departures' lounge rather than at Manchester Airport's private terminal on Wednesday.

Rotation is not the right word for them.

M.E.N.

Updated: 17.04.2018 15:22
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