Mour­inho side­steps City fi­nance ques­tion ahead of derby show­down

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - Sport - BY SI­MON PEACH

Manch­ester United man­ager Jose Mour­inho is ready to go toe-to-toe with ‘ un­touch­able’ Manch­ester City in this week­end’s ea­gerly-an­tic­i­pated derby.

Pep Guardi­ola’s Premier League lead­ers lie in wait at the Eti­had Sta­dium to­mor­row as United look to emerge from a daunt­ing dou­ble-header with an­other mem­o­rable away win.

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s stun­ning vol­ley was ren­dered mean­ing­less on Wed­nes­day as Mour­inho over­saw a late 2-1 Cham­pi­ons League come­back win at Ju­ven­tus – a side brack­eted with City as among the con­ti­nent’s best.

Wed­nes­day’s 6-0 de­feat of Shakhtar Donetsk un­der­lined the qual­ity of Sun­day’s op­po­si­tion, but life off the field is not as rosy as City face al­le­ga­tions that they have tried to cheat Eu­ro­pean foot­ball’s Fi­nan­cial Fair Play rules.

Asked if he felt United were op­er­at­ing on a fair play­ing field ahead of the derby, Mour­inho said: “It’s dif­fi­cult for me to an­swer be­cause I fo­cus on my job, I fo­cus on the four lines.

“I fo­cus on foot­ball. If you want to speak about their foot­ball po­ten­tial, we can speak.

“And foot­ball po­ten­tial starts with in­vest­ment. Af­ter that, of course, there is a qual­ity of the work and the qual­ity of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and I think that is un­touch­able. But what be­hind, I can­not say.

“But, in this mo­ment, I have only to think about foot­ball, and to think about foot­ball is just to think about Manch­ester City as a foot­ball team.”

The al­le­ga­tions about City’s fi­nances have been made by Ger­man pub­li­ca­tion Der Spiegel, cit­ing doc­u­ments and pri­vate emails ob­tained from the whis­tle-blow­ing group Foot­ball Leaks.

City have de­scribed the re­ports as the prod­uct of an or­gan­ised at­tempt to dam­age the club’s rep­u­ta­tion, based on ‘ma­te­ri­als hacked or stolen’.

Mour­inho sidestepped the al­le­ga­tions against Sun­day’s op­po­nents and in­stead praised a side that he hopes to go toe-to­toe with, just as he did at Ju­ven­tus and in the re­cent 2-2 draw at Chelsea.

The United boss said: “We are go­ing to try. I can­not say we are go­ing to be suc­cess­ful in our mo­ti­va­tions, in our de­sire, but we played two dif­fi­cult matches away against two very good teams, Chelsea and Ju­ven­tus, and we man­aged to get good re­sults.

“And even if the good re­sults were not in our pock­ets, the per­for­mances were there, the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude was there, so we are go­ing to try. But you are right, Manch­ester City is a very pow­er­ful team.”

Yet United know they can hurt Guardi­ola’s side, hav­ing come from be­hind to win 3-2 at the Eti­had Sta­dium in April

is and de­lay their ti­tle party.

City are on course to re­tain the Premier League crown, but Mour­inho is not get­ting worked up about cut­ting back a gap that al­ready stands at nine points.

“If we drew it’s nine, if we lose it’s 12,” the United boss said. “I don’t think it’s the way to look at the match.

“You know, I think we have to just think about the match. The match is dif­fi­cult enough by be­ing an iso­lated event. If you want to put that match into the con­text of where we are, where we can be, then it be­comes even more dif­fi­cult.

“So, I just want to play the match as an iso­lated event: dif­fi­cult match against a very dif­fi­cult team. But I don’t think they think it’s an easy match for them.”

How­ever, Mour­inho knows they can­not af­ford the sloppy starts that have been all to fre­quent re­cently.

He said: “If we keep con­ced­ing goals be­fore the op­po­nent, it will ar­rive the day where we can­not come back. So, we have to make sure we grow up not just in our ap­proach, – be­cause that I think is clear that the team is grow­ing up – but also we have to grow up in our com­pact­ness and to start matches well. Which, I have to say against Ju­ven­tus, it hap­pened.”

Romelu Lukaku missed the trip to Turin with a ham­string com­plaint but could be back for the Manch­ester derby.

GETTY IMAGES

Manch­ester United man­ager Jose Mour­inho

New­cas­tle man­ager has de­ci­sions to make for the game against Bournemouth

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