United face Pep Guardiola’s team at Old Trafford in Sunday’s derby and although Mourinho praised City he also claimed they try to gain advantage by going to ground easily. “One thing that I don’t like a lot is that they lose their balance very easily,” he said.
Mourinho’s comments echo those he made about Arsenal after last weekend’s 3-1 win there. “I leave for you the Arsenal players on the grass,” he said. “The grass is absolutely beautiful – I think there is a desire to go on to the grass.”
Paul Pogba’s red card at the Emirates Stadium means he is suspended and Mourinho refused to reveal how United will approach the City game in the midfielder’s absence. “You all want to know how we are going to play,” he said. “Everyone connected with football professionally or as a fan is questioning: ‘Who is going to play? How are we going to try to play?’ I’m not going to tell.
“Even the players do not know who is going to play. We are working on principles of play. I want every player to be connected with it and ready for it. With the problems we have with absences it is important that other players are ready to play or be on the bench and come on, and to have different roles than they are used to.
“So the work is much more global than the 11 players who are going to start. The players who are fit? Zlatan Ibrahimovic is available, Phil Jones is available, Marouane Fellaini I have to wait [until Saturday]; Michael Carrick is not available, Eric Bailly is not available. Nemanja Matic is injured but he plays.”
United are eight points behind City so know a defeat would allow their visitors to open up a formidable lead. Mourinho said: “I don’t want us to feel any kind of pressure. I want us to feel it as a match like we are going to have another one two days later against Bournemouth. We want to win, we want to play well, we are going to try and let’s see the direction of the game.”
Mourinho has previously encouraged fans to make the atmosphere at home more vibrant, criticising them for being too quiet. But he refused to go down that track before City’s visit.
“I stop with that,” he said. “I’m not going to write any more words about it, I’m not going to say any more words about it. We are paid to work and to work hard and to give the best we can, not to criticise fans and I’m not going to say any words. It is the reality of things. I’m not paid to come here and make any comments or to ask for something from the fans. I am paid to give them happiness, which is what I try to do every day.”
Of the challenge facing City, Mourinho said: “They are a good team. They defend well, they react well to the moment they lose the ball. They have a good dynamic in attack, they have creative movement, they have amazing players, they have a fantastic coach, they have lots of good things.
“Football is unpredictable – me as a manager I can try to define a gameplan, to work in a direction, but we don’t know what can happen. There are so many things that are out of control that can totally transform the direction of the game, I wouldn’t risk saying what game we are going to have.”
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