Jose Mourinho predicted his tired Manchester United side will lose at Middlesbrough tomorrow and insisted Marcos Rojo eating a banana in desperate search of energy is no laughing matter, during a post-match attack on his side’s ‘enemies’.
The Red Devils snuck past Rostov thanks to Juan Mata’s goal, which secured a 2-1 aggregate win in the Europa League, but United visibly tired as they struggled to maintain their dominant start, having played nearly an hour with 10 men in their FA Cup defeat by Chelsea on Monday night.
The banana was handed to defender Rojo in a bid to combat fatigue, which Mourinho insisted was absolutely necessary given his side’s packed schedule, as they prepare to travel to Middlesbrough for a 12pm kick-off on Sunday.
It is this congestion, which could see United play an incredible 17 games between now and the end of the campaign, which led Mourinho to sensationally predict his tired side will lose against managerless Boro. He also attacked the Red Devils’ many ‘enemies’ who he perceives to be making life hard for his team, in a thinly-veiled swipe at the football authorities.
“We were afraid of extra time. It was a difficult game. We have lots of enemies,” said Mourinho. “Normally the enemies should be Rostov but we have a lot of enemies. It’s difficult to play Monday with 10 men, it’s difficult to play now, it’s difficult to play 12 o’clock on Sunday. We have a lot of enemies.”
“A lot of people might say we should have scored more goals. But a lot of things are going against us. The boys are amazing boys. We will probably lose the game on Sunday. Fatigue has a price.”
Mourinho peeled the banana himself before handing it to substitute Ashley Young, who hovered on the touchline before handing it to Rojo to eat.
While the incident appeared to be a light-hearted moment during the narrow home victory, the United boss insisted it was absolutely necessary and was in no mood to joke when asked about it post-match.
“I don’t know, if you were tired anytime in your life? he said. “I was tired many times and I know what is the body’s limits and the body needing anything, anything. The player [Marcos Rojo] asked for a banana and banana is... it’s not to laugh. It’s not to laugh at all. It’s to respect the players in their limits. They give absolutely everything.”
United must win at the Riverside this weekend but will go there without Pogba, who left Thursday night’s game with a hamstring injury, and potentially Daley Blind after the Dutchman departed with blurred vision. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera are both suspended.
Mourinho is also still seething at a Uefa official in Russia last week telling him to not worry about his stars picking up injuries after he raised concerns about the state of Rostov’s pitch.
And he admitted United were left fearing extra-time after struggling to find a second goal last night
“I will remember forever when I spoke to a Uefa delegate he told me if any of my players got injured there would be insurance to cover,” the Portuguese added. “Whoever decided the Monday and Sunday games probably thinks the same way.”
Rostov manager Ivan Daniliants said: “It’s another historical game for us, they are one of the best teams in the world. We have showed a decent level in this competition and it was a solid performance.”
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