IN DE­FEN­SIVE MODE

New Straits Times - - Sport -

for­ward a day.

“In any coun­try in the world, the match would be Satur­day be­cause Sun­day, we are sixth, doesn’t mat­ter what, and Crys­tal Palace is safe,” the United man­ager told re­porters af­ter Wed­nes­day’s 0-0 draw at Southamp­ton.

“So I think af­ter the mo­ment Crys­tal Palace beat Hull City and Hull City is rel­e­gated, and Swansea is safe, I think in that mo­ment, the match has to be Satur­day. In any coun­try in the world, it would be Satur­day. It’s go­ing to be Sun­day. It’s frus­trat­ing for me. And I hope you don’t kill me when you see my team.”

Asked if he had sub­mit­ted a re­quest for the game to be moved, Mour­inho replied: “I don’t lose time. When I know that the bat­tle is lost, I don’t fight the bat­tle.

“You ( jour­nal­ists) are English, you are here since you were born. I’m here al­ready, four plus three, seven years. I never saw any de­tail of try­ing to care about the English teams in­volved in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tions.

“I never saw that with Chelsea, I never saw that with Manch­ester United, with (Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nal­ists) Manch­ester City last year. I never saw.

“So I think it’s just a lost bat­tle. We have to ac­cept the way it is.”

The United man­ager has con­firmed Ser­gio Romero will start the Europa League fi­nal and the Ar­gentina goal­keeper seized a chance to shine at Southamp­ton, plung­ing to his right to save a sixth-minute penalty from Manolo Gab­bia­dini.

Rather than re­store his usual num­ber one, David de Gea, to his start­ing XI against Palace, Mour­inho said he would hand a league de­but to 20-year-old third­choice goal­keeper Joel Pereira.

Mour­inho said Axel Tuanzebe, who has started United’s last three league games, would be in­volved, along with his fel­low academy grad­u­ates Demetri Mitchell, Scott McTom­i­nay, Matty Wil­lock, Josh Har­rop and Zachary Dearn­ley.

“I hope the fans at Old Traf­ford sup­port the team, they for­give some naivety, they for­give some lack of con­fi­dence,” Mour­inho said. “And I hope that Big Sam (Al­lardyce, the Palace man­ager) shows he is a good friend and he goes slow. He tells (Wilfried) Zaha to go slow, he leaves (Chris­tian) Ben­teke at home. I hope he goes soft on us.”

Mour­inho also said centreback Eric Bailly, who is sus­pended for the fi­nal, would fea­ture, as well as Paul Pogba, who has been granted com­pas­sion­ate leave fol­low­ing the death of his fa­ther last Fri­day.

The re­sult at St Mary’s was United’s 15th draw of a frus­trat­ing league sea­son and means they are guar­an­teed to reg­is­ter their low­est num­ber of wins in a cam­paign since the 1990-91 sea­son.

But United were al­ready guar­an­teed to fin­ish sixth, while Southamp­ton, who have not scored in four suc­ces­sive topflight home games for the first time, re­main eighth.

Southamp­ton man­ager Claude Puel re­fused to dis­cuss his fu­ture at the club, which is the sub­ject of spec­u­la­tion.

“I try to stay fo­cused about our last game now,” said the French­man, whose side fin­ish their cam­paign at home to Stoke City on Sun­day. “Af­ter the sea­son we have time to dis­cuss and speak about this and make a de­brief. It’s im­por­tant to fo­cus on our last game.” AFP

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