Mourinho: Manchester United need to show CSKA respect
Injury to Marouane Fellaini leaves United short on midfielders
Jose Mourinho believes the key to Manchester United beating CSKA Moscow in Wednesday’s Champions League game and maintaining their fine start to the season is to be dominant while staying humble and respecting the home side.
United are unbeaten in eight matches this season, winning seven including Saturday’s 1-0 win at Southampton. In that outing they had to defend for prolonged passages having overrun all of their previous opponents apart from Stoke City, with whom they only drew 2-2.
United won their Group A opener 3-0 against Basel at Old Trafford a fortnight ago and Mourinho is again targeting maximum points at the VEB Arena against Viktor Goncharenko’s side, who finished second in the Russian Premier League last season.
“We cannot guarantee this line of success but the way to try to keep it going is to do what we’re doing,” Mourinho said. “We try to play well and in some moments of the match, if the opponents have moments of superiority, we have to be humble, like we were against Southampton, and to cope with the difficult moments.
“Looking at the match at Southampton on TV, I think there was an episode in the first half that could transform the game [Shane Long’s first-half challenge on Marouane Fellaini which resulted in an ankle injury for the Belgian]. We were winning 1-0 when that happened and we could be in control and win the game easily, but in the second half we had to be humble and accept the opponent was on a high and we had to fight hard.
“So I think it’s a mixture of our quality and trying to be dominant, like we want to be always, but accepting the reality of high-level football, that when the opponent has a strong moment, you have to cope with it.”
Fellaini completed the match although he was subsequently ruled out of the trip to Moscow and the hope is he will be available after next month’s international break and will only miss Crystal Palace’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday.
Mourinho, who is also without Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia, said: “For me Craig Pawson is not one of the big guns of refereeing in England but he was so calm and so much in control [at Southampton]. After I watched it on television it became clear to me, but there was no camera for Craig so he made that decision.”
Mourinho hopes Fellaini will not now be called up by Belgium for their international matches as they have already qualified for the 2018 World Cup.
“Fellaini was lucky – he could have been in a much worse situation but at the moment . . . when we don’t have Pogba and Carrick,” he added. “I expect him not to be out for a long time and after Crystal Palace – Belgium are the first country to qualify so I hope he can be playing for us.”
Mourinho has faced CSKA with three of his previous clubs and believes Goncharenko’s side are the strongest. “I played against CSKA with Real Madrid, with Inter, with Chelsea and now with Manchester United, so it’s something normal in my Champions League career,” he said. “Opponents wise, I think it’s the best CSKA that I’m going to play against. I think it’s the best team that I face with CSKA as an opponent.”
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was among United’s best players when they won the Europa League last season. The attacking midfielder scored six times, one of them in the 2-0 final win over Ajax. Yet Mourinho wants the 28-year-old to elevate his game. “He played well in the Europa League but that was last season and we need him to perform again and the level is higher; the matches away from home are more difficult and we need the best from our players,” the manager said.
After the Basel win Mourinho declared himself unhappy with the display after United had gone 2-0 up on 53 minutes and failed to add to the score, comparing it to “PlayStation football”.
Mkhitaryan agreed. “Everyone knows that Jose Mourinho is very demanding and what he said is right,” the Armenian said. “He didn’t say exactly names, but everyone thinks he had done something bad or done some mistakes, but we’re trying to improve that aspect and be more focused during the whole game “