Football

Mourinho hits back at critics: I will play with one defender and nine strikers

Jose Mourinho will take his Manchester United side to Anfield tonight without three front-line midfielders - Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini - all of whom have been ruled out with injury.

But, having been widely criticised last season for United's approach at Liverpool almost exactly 12 months ago, when his side ground out a drab goalless draw, Mourinho reacted sarcastically when asked yesterday if his team would be more adventurous this year.

"I play with one defender and nine strikers, don't worry about it. We play with one guy behind and then we go with a new system and we play with nine strikers, don't worry about it," said the United boss.

Mourinho described Liverpool's Anfield stadium as a "beautiful place" and insisted the Red Devils will relish playing in such an intense atmosphere tonight.

Former United players Gary Neville and Mikael Silvestre spoke this week about the extraordinary hostility generated by their club's visits to Anfield, and the tension that goes with it.

But Mourinho insisted that, despite the long-standing history of animosity between the bitter rivals, his players should enjoy the opportunity to play in front of a packed Anfield crowd tonight.

"You know this is quite funny for me because I think when people speak about big atmospheres, it looks like we don't like, it looks like it's a problem for us to go to a certain place and to face a big atmosphere - this is what we want," Mourinho said.

"I am surprised that you speak about that in a negative way, I am even more surprised when I hear former, big players speak about atmospheres like something sinister, something that worries.

"It motivates us, it is something that we want, it is something that if we could have every match we would have every match.

"You know, when Barcelona played against Las Palmas with an empty stadium, do you think the players were happy with that?

"Do you think Las Palmas' players wouldn't prefer to play at the Nou Camp, full of people and a great atmosphere?

"We are speaking about Old Trafford, in this case Anfield, like it's a big problem.

"It's a satisfaction, that's what we want."

Mourinho has no complaints if Anfield produces one of its traditional electrifying occasions for his team's visit.

"We know that the fans have huge animosity against Manchester United historically, but this is what we want so we are very happy to have one more opportunity in our careers to play in these beautiful conditions.

"It's beautiful to play at Anfield. Beautiful." - AFP