Manchester United are contending with an injury crisis ahead of Monday night’s FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
With top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended after elbowing Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mings last weekend, United have also reportedly lost Wayne Rooney to a training ground collision with Phil Jones, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford also depleting Jose Mourinho’s options in attack.
Mourinho has been on the attack himself, saying that opposite number Antonio Conte has had it easy this season with no European football – whereas united play the second leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against Rostov on Thursday.
” I know he said a couple of weeks ago it’s not his fault they’re not in the European competitions, it’s my fault and the players’ fault. But the reality is that he got in his hands a situation where they have time to work, time to rest, time to relax, time to disconnect. They have time to travel, time to have holidays, time to go to America and enjoy America for a couple of days, they have time for all of these things. So they’re in a position of privilege, the same privilege that Liverpool had a couple of years ago when they almost won the Premier League.”
Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte applauds the fans following the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Cheslsea at The London Stadium in east London on March 6, 2017. Chelsea won the match 2-1.
Mourinho also aimed a dig at Conte’s style of play, suggesting that while he was criticised for playing defensive football during his time as Chelsea boss, the Italian is using the same template.
” I don’t want to say that they don’t deserve credit for it. They choose a certain style of play that I think is very adapted to the qualities of these players. They defend a lot and well, and they counter-attack and kill opponents on the counter-attack, similar to my Chelsea. The difference is they play with five at the back and I played four at the back, but it’s the same criteria – a very strong team to defend and a team that kills on the counter-attack.”
However, that brought a bristling response from Conte, who disagreed with Mourinho’s assessment:
” I have to tell you one thing. Not only here [at Chelsea] but I never, ever train for the counterattack. Never prepare for the counterattack. I think the counterattack is an option, above all, if you have this type of player, players who are very, very fast. ‘Also Costa is a counterattacking man, and Willian and Pedro. It’s normal to have this situation with space, so they know what they can do. It’s important to train the other aspects – when we have the ball, when we stay almost always in our opponents’ half, to prepare when we are attacking. ‘It’s very difficult to train counterattacking but it’s not my priority. “
Chelsea have a fully fit squad at the moment with Antonio Conte having to decide whether or not he wants to start his captain John Terry.
For Manchester United Ibrahimovic is suspended following his elbow on Mings but Eric Bailly returns having missed the Rostov game through suspension. Bastian Schweinsteiger is a doubt while Manchester United captain Rooney is reportedly out of the match as well as Martial and Rashford.
Manchester United’s English striker Wayne Rooney warms upAFP
Jose Mourinho: “It is not Chelsea’s fault that we were given this Monday match, so we have to make changes for sure… but we cannot go to Stamford Bridge with a Nicky Butt team. We cannot go with Nicky Butt’s team. Manchester United is too big. Manchester United is the winner of the competition.”
Antonio Conte: “I’ve shown at Chelsea, not only Chelsea, every team that I managed, that I live the game with great passion. Sometimes I want to share my enthusiasm, my passion with my players, with my staff, also with the fans. I think it’s normal. For me the most important thing is to try to win, then to think for another celebration.”
PLAYER’S VIEW: EDEN HAZARD
Speaking ahead of Monday night’s quarter-final clash with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, Hazard told Chelsea TV:
” The FA Cup for all the fans does mean something special. They won a lot in the past 10 years. Since I signed for Chelsea I never won this cup. The FA Cup is something we want to win, but when you play for Chelsea it is not something you think about a lot because you want to win every game. My target is to give everything and only if we win the trophies will I be relaxed.”