Football

Mourinho not ruling Matic of out Arsenal clash

United boss sweats over defensive midfielder's availability ahead of crunch match

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has refused to rule out Nemanja Matic for tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) English Premier League clash against Arsenal, saying the midfielder will travel with the squad to the Emirates Stadium.

Matic, who arrived at Old Trafford from Chelsea at the start of the season, was substituted after 55 minutes of United's 4-2 win at Watford in mid-week with Mourinho saying the Serbia international had a muscular problem.

The manager remains unsure on whether Matic will be able to make his 15th consecutive league start for United as they continue to chase league leaders Manchester City, who are eight points clear at the top.

"I don't know if he can play," Mourinho said at United's news conference yesterday.

"He's travelling with the team, he's going to try and, hopefully, he can, but I cannot guarantee he is ready."

Mourinho has yet to win an away game against any top-six rivals since taking charge at Old Trafford, with United's seven games at Chelsea, Arsenal, City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur yielding three points and one goal.

Asked if tomorrow morning's fixture was a must-win to keep the title race alive, he replied: "I tell my players just to think about the game. It doesn't matter what happened before or what happens afterwards.

"We don't think about how many points ahead of them we are or how many points ahead the leaders are.

"It will be tough enough against Arsenal, so we will focus totally on this game."

Arsene Wenger's side, fourth in the league and four points behind second-placed United, have won all their seven league games at home this season, scoring 20 goals and conceding four.

Mourinho added: "When we have the ball, we are going to attack with 11 players because even the goalkeeper needs to know what to do when we have the ball.

"When Arsenal have the ball, we are going to defend with 11 players.

"I remember big matches. Before I came to England, for many years it was about Manchester United and Arsenal for the title."

On top of chasing leaders City in the Premier League, Man United must also contend with a Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow on Thursday morning.

But, with the Red Devils as good as assured of a place in the Round of 16, Mourinho has pledged to field his strongest XI against the Gunners.

He said: "I would always try to play the best possible team, even if the Champions League match was a must-win.

"I would forget it and go for the game one at a time, and I would go for the game that is the most important game now, which is the next one."

Mourinho also confirmed defenders Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are not available for selection after missing their last three league matches due to injury. - WIRE SERVICES

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