Football

'Champions' Chelsea can focus on FA Cup

Mourinho plays mind games again after United get drawn against his former club in last eight

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has told Chelsea they have the Premier League title in the bag and can already begin focusing on an FA Cup quarter-final against his side.

United booked their place in the last eight by edging Championship strugglers Blackburn 2-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time) after Zlatan Ibrahimovic stepped off the bench to score the winner after goals from Danny Graham and Marcus Rashford.

Their reward was a trip to Mourinho's former Stamford Bridge stomping ground for the first time since October, when the Blues ran out 4-0 winners in a significant show of strength.

The Portuguese wasted no time in framing the narrative, suggesting Chelsea's eight-point lead had effectively settled the title race and they could now focus on making it a domestic double.

Mourinho was equally keen to point out how crowded United's schedule is, with a Europa League campaign ongoing, a League Cup final appearance next Monday morning and the battle for fourth place intensifying.

Despite initially offering "no reaction" to the draw, Mourinho quickly changed tack.

"Probably Chelsea can only think about that (the FA Cup) because I think they are champions and they have nothing else to fight for," he said.

"The FA Cup is something I believe is important for them.

"I have to play St Etienne (on Wednesday), I have to play the (League Cup) final, I have to play hopefully another opponent in the Europa League.

"I have to fight for a top-four position in the Premier League.

"I have so many things to think about."

Those differences stressed, he then added: "The match is in one month's time. I don't want to be speaking about it."

Striker Rashford is hoping to avenge Man United's Stamford Bridge humiliation.

Probably Chelsea can only think about that (the FA Cup) because I think they are champions and they have nothing else to fight for.Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho

As if the heavy defeat in October was not humbling enough, they were also subjected to taunting by the fans.

"You're not special anymore," chanted some of the Chelsea fans as the Red Devils were picked apart.

"I mean, at this stage of the competition, you're going to be facing a good team no matter where you go," Rashford said of the Blues.

"I think we've just got to take it game by game. We're on a good run of form and so are they, so I think it'll be a good game.

"But we'll go there confident and to win the game."

Asked if United owed Chelsea one for October, Rashford added: "Yeah, definitely. They've got one over us."

Former midfielder Paul Scholes is refusing to rule out the possibility of United winning the treble - the League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League - in Mourinho's first season at Old Trafford.

Asked whether United could win a treble of cup competitions this season, Scholes said: "They could. Let's hope they do. They're teetering on it.

"They've got a big game next week in the final.

"You'd have to fancy them to win that. Southampton are a decent team. Europa League is another eight games to get the final. The FA Cup still has some big teams," Scholes said.

"They're on the verge of a big season, but it could go one way or another." - WIRE SERVICES


QUARTER-FINAL DRAW

  • Chelsea v Manchester United
  • Middlesbrough v Huddersfield/Manchester City
  • Tottenham Hotspur v Millwall
  • Sutton United/Arsenal v Lincoln

* Ties to be played from March 10-13

Manchester UnitedCHELSEA (EPL)Jose Mourinho