We won’t shy away from Eti­had chal­lenge: Mour­inho

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY SI­MON PEACH

MANCH­ESTER United man­ager Jose Mour­inho is ready to go toeto-toe with “un­touch­able” Manch­ester City in to­mor­row’s ea­gerly-an­tic­i­pated derby.

Pep Guardi­ola’s Pre­mier League lead­ers lie in wait at the Eti­had Sta­dium 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 to­mor­row’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 the qual­ity of the work and the qual­ity of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and I think that is un­touch­able. But what is be­hind it, 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 to­mor­row’s op­po­nents and in­stead praised a side that he hopes to go toe-to-toe 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 are 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 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 draw 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.

“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: a 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 too fre­quent re­cently.

He said: “If we keep con­ced­ing goals be­fore the op­po­nent, then the day will ar­rive when we can­not come back. So, we have to make sure we grow up not just in our ap­proach — be­cause I think it 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, hap­pened.”

Romelu Lukaku (left) missed the trip to Turin af­ter pick­ing up a ham­string com­plaint on the eve of the 2-1

Close watch: Jose Mour­inho over­seesUnited train­ing yes­ter­day but Paul Pogba (above) playedno part

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