Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has spoken exclusively to us ahead of today's Premier League blockbuster against historic rivals Liverpool at Anfield.
In our Q&A, the manager offers his assessment of the upcoming UEFA Champions League last-16 draw and provides an insight into Mason Greenwood and James Garner's inclusion in the squad against Valencia, before discussing Marcus Rashford's increasingly-influential form up front...
First of all, everyone is looking forward to the Champions League last-16 draw on Monday. There are some big clubs in there – is it a case that every possible outcome is one to look forward to?
“Yes. You look forward to Monday, I don’t. Really it’s not something that keeps me with an eye on the television. We know that the last 16 has lots of good teams, even the teams that finished first are not relaxed. They know that they can get a very difficult opponent that finished second in their group. There will be a big match at Old Trafford to start, it doesn’t matter which opponent it is [against], so I’m relaxed and more focused on Liverpool and then Cardiff than on the draw.”
Just on the draw, 2019 will be the 15-year anniversary of your Porto team winning the Champions League. Will it be special for you to face them, or do you not think about things like that?
“I don’t [think about it]. I think, probably, people look at them in the middle of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund and think they are a good one to get [drawn against]. I don’t think so at all. I think that was the feeling 15 years ago that Manchester United had and Manchester United, full of stars, were knocked out and Porto were in the next round. I really don’t look forward to playing against them because I know they are a very good team.”
It was great to see James Garner and Mason Greenwood with the first-team squad in Spain this week. They weren’t needed in the end, but do you feel they will benefit from that experience?
“I think it’s always a nice experience for them even if they don’t play, to be involved, to feel a new habitat and, I think, to even feel the pressure of being on the bench and thinking ‘maybe I have to play’. To feel that extra adrenalin and responsibility, I think it’s always a good experience for them. But they had pre-season with us, they trained with us many, many times. Last week they were training with us almost every day, so it’s not really something new for the boys.”
Marcus Rashford scored in Valencia - he now has two goals and four assists so far in December, which is encouraging form. Are you pleased with his recent development?
“I’m always pleased because he always plays on his limits. He gives absolutely everything and that’s what I demand from players. After that, more quality, less quality, better performance, not as good, but I think that’s the basic thing of a professional and, at that level, Marcus is untouchable because he’s fantastic in terms of his contribution for the team.”
And finally, after the trip to Anfield, we’ve got a rare week without a fixture ahead of the Cardiff match. Are you looking forward to that, because you get to work with players for a few days in a row?
“I look forward to it because I think it’s good. It’s good to have one day off [on] Monday, that we’ve not had for quite a while, and it’s also good then to have from Tuesday until Saturday to try to work tactically, which is something we haven’t done for a while because of the accumulation of matches.”
MUTV subscribers will be able to enjoy 90 minutes of live build-up to Liverpool v United from 14:30 GMT, ahead of kick-off at 16:00 GMT.
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