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Manchester United stride on but Jose Mourinho slams hectic fixture list

St Etienne 0 - Manchester United 1

By Simon Peach

Jose Mourinho has slammed the fixture planners after it emerged that Manchester United will have to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a televised FA Cup quarter-final showdown on Monday, March 13.

The big clash will be sandwiched between United's Europa League last-16 first and second legs after Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored in a 1-0 last-32 second-leg win over Saint Etienne last night - sealing a 4-0 aggregate victory.

Mourinho was perplexed by the decision to announce the date before tomorrow's European draw and took a shot at the organisers, as well as a swipe at rivals Manchester City after their much-changed side last season lost 5-1 at Chelsea in the FA Cup.

Asked if he was worried the FA Cup scheduling would hinder his chances of progress, Mourinho said: "Of course and I feel really surprised that the decision was made before our draw in Europe.

"Because in this moment nobody knows where we play, nobody knows where the first and second matches are.

"Imagine we play Chelsea on Monday and then we have to go to the second match in Europe in Russia, Turkey or Greece.

"I think once more the interests, they go in front of the clubs and English football's interests, and nobody cares about it. But this is what I have.

"I cannot play against Chelsea with the second team. I cannot play against Chelsea with the Under-21s like Manchester City did last year. I cannot do that -we are Manchester United.

"I don't do that as Manchester United manager. I don't do that to the FA Cup because the FA Cup is not guilty of these decisions. The FA Cup is beautiful, the competition is historical.

"I have to treat United supporters and the FA Cup in the right way. I cannot go there with Under-21s. Probably they would deserve it, but I don't do that, so what is going to happen is an accumulation of matches.

"People playing a lot of matches, I have to use some rotation but some of the boys will have to play in all these consecutive matches.

"And if situations like the Mkhitaryan one or the (Michael) Carrick one happen, they happen."

Mourinho was also left counting the cost of victory after goalscorer Mkhitaryan and Michael Carrick both went off injured.

Both players could now miss the EFL Cup final because of their injuries, while Eric Bailly was sent off in the second half for a second yellow card.

Match-winner Mkhitaryan limped off after 25 minutes with a hamstring issue and veteran midfielder Carrick sustained a second-half calf complaint, putting both players' hopes of facing Southampton on Sunday in jeopardy.

"Honestly, I don't think he is fit," Mourinho said of Mkhitaryan.

"I think him and Michael are both out, but this is based on my experience, not based on my medical knowledge and not based on tests and what they obviously have to do tomorrow and after tomorrow.

"I think there's no chance but I repeat, it's just my experience. A calf, a hamstring, even if it is minor, minor, some fibres damaged, I think they're out."

Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney is unlikely to leave United for China this month. The England captain's representatives spoke to Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian, but coach Fabio Cannavaro said talks did not progress.

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