Football

Mourinho: Hard to believe you can call this a field

Mourinho frowns at state of Rostov pitch, exacerbated by Uefa official's insurance claim

 

ROUND OF 16, 1ST LEG
ROSTOV MAN UNITED

Jose Mourinho's fury at the state of the Rostov pitch was exacerbated by a Uefa official telling the Manchester United manager not to worry about injuries as his players are protected by insurance.

United made the long trip to Russia for the first leg of a Europa League last-16 clash tomorrow morning (Singapore time) that the Portuguese initially described as a "bad draw in every aspect".

Mourinho's concerns have only grown after seeing the state of the Olimp-2 Stadium pitch - a surface the manager compared to the Bird's Nest quagmire that saw United's money-spinning pre-season friendly against Manchester City in Beijing called off.

Rostov coach Ivan Daniliants had warned that their pitch would be a "problem", but the United boss was still taken aback by the quality.

"It's still hard to believe that we are going to play there," Mourinho said yesterday.

"I know that we have to, but it is hard for me to believe we are going to play on that field - if you can call it a field.

"And I don't know what team to play, really. I don't know if Henrikh Mkhitaryan is going to play, I don't know.

"I have now a lot to think (about) because I was expecting something more playable.

NOT THE FIRST TIME

"In a very similar pitch in the summer in China, we and Man City decided not to play. But it looks like we have to play."

It is not the first time Mourinho has been infuriated by Uefa's decision to make a Europa League match go ahead despite issues with the surface.

Last December, he was angry with European football's governing body for making United play the Europa League group-stage decider at Zorya Luhansk on a frozen pitch.

"I didn't have any contact with anyone until now (about the pitch)," Mourinho said this time in Russia.

"I just had a quick contact with one gentleman from Uefa when I was looking at the pitch.

"And when I told him about my concerns, the gentleman just told me, 'The players are insured, if something happens no problem'."

United flew to Russia on Tuesday and were able to include Zlatan Ibrahimovic among their travelling party.

The Swede striker has to serve a three-match domestic suspension, after accepting a Football Association violent conduct charge for an incident in last Saturday's draw with Bournemouth when his elbow struck the side of Bournemouth's Tyrone Mings' face.

Ibrahimovic's ban does not apply to the Europa League games with FC Rostov.

Mkhitaryan was also on the plane having missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury, but Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw, both of whom started in the 1-1 draw with the Cherries, and the suspended Eric Bailly were left at home along with Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Mourinho said that Man United will start thinking "really seriously" about the Europa League should they eliminate Rostov and advance to the quarter-finals.

Winning the Europa League also comes with the bonus of Champions League qualification, but the Portuguese said his priority was for United to finish as high up in the Premier League table as possible.

"The Europa League is very difficult, but it's a target for us," Mourinho told British media.

"If we beat Rostov and we find ourselves in the quarter-finals, then we have to think really seriously about the Europa League.

"Quarter-finals, you smell the final and then in a certain period of the season, I have to analyse my team, the players, the conditions of everyone.

"If I have to make choices, I have to make choices... But it's not for now." - WIRE SERVICES

EUROPA LEAGUEManchester UnitedJose Mourinho