Jose Mourinho Talks Leaks, Player Fitness, Transfers, Title in Man Utd PresserNovember 2, 2018
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho spoke to the media on Friday ahead of Saturday's Premier League trip to Bournemouth and said Alexis Sanchez is back fit. However, the United chief did express concern following recent leaks about team news.
Sanchez was an unused substitute in Saturday's 2-1 win over Everton—the sixth match he's missed this term—while Jesse Lingard came on to play his first minutes in more than a month.
When asked about the latest on the United squad, the 55-year-old said:
“A very good week. We work tactically, we improve some fitness levels. We improve some of the players that were almost there but not there—Lingard, Alexis—these kind of players, that were already available but not yet at a good level.
“We trained with our kids too. They mixed with us on one of the days, which is an amazing feeling for them.
“Dalot and Fellaini are still out. The only one that went one step behind was Antonio Valencia with some problem in his knee. But Lingard and Alexis, now I can say 'ready.'"
It's now common practice for some managers to monitor the social media activity of their players, but Mourinho joked there were inaccuracies in right-back Antonio Valencia's version of events:
Romelu Lukaku's place in the starting lineup has been questioned after his poor start to the season and a disappointing return of only four goals in 14 appearances.
Mourinho joked Manchester Evening News reporter Samuel Luckhurst should be the man to quiz when asked if Lukaku would start at the Vitality Stadium:
The comment was made in reference to the MEN posting leaked team news prior to recent matches. Mourinho was then asked if he wanted to reveal the team himself before it was leaked, to which he replied: "No, no."
The Red Devils are eighth in the Premier League, two places and three points below hosts Bournemouth. However, Mourinho was reluctant to discuss winter transfers and gave the sense he would make the best out of his current assets.
"I think in this moment we have to focus on ourselves and to do better or get better results. I think is very difficult for example to go to Stamford Bridge and do better what we did in terms of performance. We had three points in our pocket and left with only one.
"In other matches we should have better results, and until end of December, we have to focus on what we have in potential, problems, quality and try to go because in this moment we are outside the top four and we have to push hard and to work hard and try to get into this top-four position."
Nine points separate his side from league leaders Manchester City, and performances on the pitch have been sorely lacking at times—although the 1-0 home loss to Juventus in the Champions League on October 23 is their only defeat in their last five.
Nevertheless, the United boss stood firm in his belief results will soon improve, per Kris Voakes of Goal:
Mourinho didn't rule United out of the title race altogether, but his response when asked about his side's future chances and their ambitions isn't likely to fill fans with confidence:
"When you are outside the top four, I don't think you should speak about title, when you are top four you can look up, see the distance, look to the fixtures, to the calendar, you can look to the situation at the moment, injuries, suspension, form and then you can feel it. But in this moment we are outside top four, so the point is now to get the points we need to try and be in the end of December in a better position than we are in now at this moment."
Mourinho had reason to be upbeat after a charge of abusive language made against him by the Football Association was recently dropped, per Sky Sports' Liam Grace.
The tactician said he always felt he would be cleared of wrongdoing:
"You know the reason why I ask the club and lawyers to appeal was because I was 100 per cent that I was not guilty of this charges, but you never know how it ends. Yes I'm pleased, but I know that I have to respect the process and I have to wait for what is going to happen next, but I only appeal if I feel I am not guilty, I don't appeal to lose my time or others lose their time."
The charge came in relation to comments he made towards a camera in Portuguese following last month's 3-2 comeback win over Newcastle United.
A November trip to Bournemouth may not have been seen as a must-win match before the season began, but United can fall six points away from the top six if they lose. Mourinho has said they'll have a better gauge of their prospects in December, but anything other than three points means he's less likely to make it that far.