MANCHESTER, England – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has aimed a subtle dig at Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger by declaring he would only tell “the truth” about the fitness of his players.
United, who beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 on Tuesday to reach the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2013-14, faces Guardiola’s Manchester City on Sunday, seeking to cut its eight-point Premier League lead.
Mourinho suggested Guardiola was being less than truthful by expressing doubts about the fitness of David Silva, and hinted Wenger had done the same with regard to Alexandre Lacazette ahead of United’s 3-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday.
Asked to provide a fitness update on his squad, a typically sarcastic Mourinho told reporters at Old Trafford: “Do you want the truth? The truth is Eric Bailly no chance for the weekend. Phil Jones a chance. (Marouane) Fellaini a chance.
“Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) is a big chance and (Nemanja) Matic is injured, but will play for sure. I’m telling the truth. He’s injured, but he’ll play for sure.
“(Michael) Carrick no chance. It’s the truth, eh? No stories of Lacazette, David Silva. All the truth.”
Wenger ruled Lacazette out of Arsenal’s meeting with United last weekend due to a groin injury, only for the French striker to play the full 90 minutes and score his side’s goal.
Mourinho joked that Arsenal’s medical team had performed an “amazing” feat by turning Lacazette “from a no to a complete 90 minutes”.
Silva, meanwhile, has been left out of City’s lineup for its game at Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday due to an unspecified injury, with Guardiola saying he does not know if the Spaniard will be fit for Sunday’s derby.
One player unlikely to feature for United against City is leftback Luke Shaw, who has been frozen out by Mourinho but produced an encouraging performance on his return to the starting XI against CSKA.
“Very positive performance, especially with the ball going forward,” Mourinho said of the England international.
“Really dangerous, creating a lot, great intensity in his game.
“No surprise that in minute 80 he was feeling the consequences of that intensity. It’s normal – first match of the season for him.
“He’s been deserving that opportunity for a long time and he’s going to get more because the performance was really positive.”
United fell behind late in the first half when Vitinho’s shot from a Mario Fernandes cutback struck teammate Alan Dzagoev on its way into the net.
United turned the game around with two goals in two minutes from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford to progress to the last 16 as Group A winner.
Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid are among the teams United could face in the next round, but Mourinho said his side would advance confident that it will inspire fear in its next opponents.
“I’m not the luckiest guy with draws, so it’s better I shut up and forget it because we only play in February and until then I have to concentrate on the English competitions,” the manager said.
“But I think it doesn’t matter the team we get in the draw. I think that team won’t be jumping with happiness to play against us.”
Although CSKA dropped into the Europa League after Basel beat Benfica to join United in the Champions League last 16, the Russian side’s manager Viktor Goncharenko said the campaign would serve his players well.
“Considering we finished third in the group, it’s not a bad result. Fighting for qualification until the last day is not bad either,” said Mourinho.
“We picked up some good experience from this Champions League campaign, especially for the young players.”
Agence France – presse