Jose Mourinho has told his Manchester United players that Wembley places are up for grabs at Bournemouth.
The re-arranged Premier League fixture on the south coast on Wednesday comes just three days before the Reds’ Emirates FA Cup semi-final showdown with Tottenham in the capital.
But the United boss insists that players won’t be saved for the big day at Wembley, and winning a place in his cup XI can still be earned in the game at the Vitality Stadium.
When asked after Sunday’s disappointing 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion if he would be rotating against Eddie Howe’s side in preparation for the Spurs clash, Mourinho said:
“Rotating is not the right word.
“If I play a player against Bournemouth and the player is phenomenal, he plays the semi-final, so it is not rotating, because rotating looks like a player that plays against Bournemouth is to give a rest to somebody that is going to play against Spurs in the semi-final.
“So the word is not rotation, it is an opportunity for some people to play and to try to get a place in the team for Spurs and some of the guys that played today [against West Brom] don't have a place in that team, they don't have a place in that team.
“What is the criteria for a manager to choose a team? I only know one criteria, is the way they play. It is the only way I can select players, or do you want me to go for the price they cost, or their salary, or their beautiful face, or... the only way is to go with performance.”
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United were on a high after the dramatic Manchester derby comeback and win against City but suffered a frustrating afternoon against the relegation-threatened Baggies.
Mourinho was asked in his Bournemouth preview section of his post-match press conference on Sunday if he felt he was getting enough consistency from his more experienced players.
“Consistency has nothing to do with age, has to do with personality, has to do with the way you live for football, what is your priority in your life, what is your ambitions, has not to do with age,” he replied.
“I met players who are 30 years old, not consistent at all, and I found boys of 18, 19, 20, real men, real pros, so is not about the age.”
Paul Pogba had a dream derby against City, scoring twice in the second half to set up the thrilling comeback at the Etihad Stadium.
But, against West Brom, the midfielder was booked for deliberate handball after 28 minutes as he launched himself at a cross. He was then substituted in the 58th minute with Anthony Martial coming on.
But the manager said the Frenchman wasn’t a scapegoat as United struggled to repeat their second-half derby performance in the 1-0 defeat against the Baggies.
“It was not just him. He had a yellow card so he was in a more difficult position than others,” explained the boss.
“Playing with only two midfield players, you cannot play with one player in risk of not being able to make a foul.
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“You can do it if your team is not losing the ball but our team was losing the ball so easily with the complication, everything was complicated, so we were losing lots of balls. By losing lots of balls, with turnings and flicks and tricks, the midfield players and central defenders are at risk of one touch, one late challenge and they are out.
“So, Paul was out because of the yellow card, because of in terms the way he played he was not worse than some of the others who were on the pitch for 90 minutes.”
MUTV will show exclusive build-up to Wednesday’s game at Bournemouth on the Match Day show from 17:45 BST.