Before his press conference on Monday afternoon, Jose Mourinho spoke exclusively to us ahead of Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League clash with Valencia at Old Trafford tonight (Tuesday). Here is what the manager had to say in our interview…
Firstly Jose, in the context of UEFA Champions League Group H, how important is tonight’s game against Valencia?
“It’s important. We won the first match but honestly, and with all respect to Young Boys, probably Juventus and Valencia will do the same as what we did, which is to go there and beat them. So the three points are not very significant, only for the third position for the Europa League which we feel is a position we don’t want. Matches against Valencia and Juventus are very important. I don’t think crucial because we are only in the second fixture, but I think every point is an important point.”
Valencia have had a relatively low-key start to the season and they only got their first win of the campaign at the weekend. What do you expect from them?
“Lots of draws but one defeat. A good team with a very good squad, a very balanced squad with two players per position of [a] high level. [They] have a way to play based on the power and strength of two central defenders and the quality and speed, especially in the counter attack in the wings and the strikers, so a difficult opponent. What I expect is exactly that – a team that in this moment has zero points [in the Champions League] but zero points from a match against Juventus. They know that they have a double fixture next against Young Boys, where I’m pretty sure that they think they can get six points in this double fixture, but they will try at Old Trafford to take something from the game.”
Do you see them as an attacking team? They tend to play almost in a 4-4-2 formation with two forwards up top…
“A counter-attacking team, a very strong counter-attacking team. They defend a lot with two lines of four, very compact, and, as I was saying, central defenders like [Ezequiel] Garay with that stature, experience and physicality and then, from Rodrigo, [Michy] Batshuayi and [Kevin] Gameiro, two of them are playing. They are very direct in the counter attack and are a dangerous team.”
How is the squad shaping up? Do you have any problems to report?
“Yes, apart from Marcos Rojo, we now have [Ander] Herrera, Ashley Young and [Jesse] Lingard out [of tonight’s game].”
Are they knocks as far as you know?
“I prefer the doctor to speak but [they are] not in [the right] conditions.”
Do you relish taking part in European games? You’ve taken charge of so many in your career over the years…
“I like [them], of course I like [them]. Everybody likes European football – big matches, big opponents from other countries, other cultures, other styles. If you ask me if the knockout stage brings more salt and pepper to the table, yes of course, but the group stage – especially this kind of group which is at least one of the two of the toughest groups – is very important because every match and every point is fundamental.”
Can Old Trafford be a factor on a European night like this as well?
“I prefer to say that the players’ attitude is the most important thing and then from the supporters I cannot ask for any more. I cannot ask for more than they are giving at home. Away with bad results, I cannot ask for more. I think it’s time for the people on the pitch to show them [the fans] that they love the club as much as the fans.”
And finally, would a win against Valencia tonight lift everything and everyone?
“I don’t want to go in that direction. The game is difficult enough without trying to add some more ingredients to the game. It’s a difficult game, we have to win if we want to be in a fantastic position and we shouldn’t lose if we want to stay at least in control of our situation.”