Mourinho fears worst over injuries to Ibrahimovic and Rojo
‘I want to wait and try to be optimistic, but I am not’
Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo suffered a knee injury in this chal with Anderlecht’s Alexandru Chipciu during the Europa League quarter-final second leg at Old Trafford. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
Jose Mourinho said he was not feeling optimistic about the injuries sustained by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo as Manchester United secured a place in the Europa League semi-finals.
Thursday’s quarter-final second leg against Anderlecht at Old Trafford, which United won 2-1 in extra time on the night for a 3-2 triumph on aggregate, saw striker Ibrahimovic hobble off after landing awkwardly towards the end of normal time and defender Rojo depart on a stretcher in the first half.
Asked about the condition of the pair, Mourinho said: “I want to wait, but my feeling is not good for both.
“I want to wait and try to be optimistic, but I am not.”
When it was put to him that he was facing a significant lack of options at centre back, Mourinho mentioned Daley Blind – Rojo’s replacement from the bench – before suggesting Jones and Smalling needed to be “brave”.
Mourinho, who earlier this season made an apparent criticism of Smalling’s pain threshold, said: “We have Daley Blind, who has experience in the position, and I think it is time for Jones and Smalling to be brave – to risk.
“Because for the team you have to do everything, that is the way I think. You cannot do miracles, so miracles I don’t expect, but they have to try to do everything to accelerate the process.
“They have injuries, and even with a crazy mentality, they cannot play Sunday [at Burnley in the Premier League].
“But with a special spirit, you can [come back] sooner than expected. So instead of mid-May, it could be the beginning of May, this kind of acceleration of the process.”
Mourinho also emphasised the trust he has in Marcus Rashford, whose fine 107th-minute strike settled the tie.
It had gone to extra-time thanks to Sofiane Hanni’s effort around the half-hour mark for the impressive visitors, which cancelled out Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s 10th-minute opener.
Regarding 19-year-old Rashford, Mourinho said: “It is hard for the kid to play every match, but I always trust the players with special mentalities.
“That is why I kept Marcus on the team the whole time – for months he was not scoring a goal, but my trust in the boy is always based on his mentality.
“In spite of being a young kid, other guys can look at him. We have great examples of fighters, of people with the right mentality.”
Ahead of Friday’s draw for the semi-final, which also features Ajax, Lyon and Celta Vigo, the Portuguese added: “I’m relieved. I’m happy.
“It was a difficult game, difficult opponent.
“I am tired. I imagine the players are more tired than me. But we are in the draw for tomorrow and we still have the dream to win the competition.”
Giving his thoughts on the contest, Anderlecht boss Rene Weiler said: “I’m really happy with the way we played but obviously less happy with the result.
“It didn’t turn out well for us result-wise but we put in an excellent first half and a we had a couple of chances to get the second goal as well, which would have been decisive.
“It was very disappointing to concede at that stage in extra time as it was difficult to find a way back after that.”