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Zorya Luhansk v Manchester United: Jose Mourinho hits out as United Euro clash is put on ice

By Simon Peach

Manchester United's crunch Europa League clash with Zorya Luhansk in Ukraine tonight (6.00pm) is under threat due to a frozen pitch that Jose Mourinho claims his team should never have had to encounter.

United manager Mourinho believes Uefa should not make teams play on frozen pitches like the one in Ukraine where his team only need a point to progress from the group stages.

But ahead of the game, Mourinho has had other things to worry about, questioning why Uefa allows final group matches to be played in countries where winters hit so hard.

"The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy," the United boss said. "I think Uefa know the conditions of the pitch and everybody knows that in mid-December the conditions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe are more difficult.

"If Uefa was worried about it, they should change the fixtures and not allow the last fixtures to be played One Zorya official was confident the match would go ahead, pointing to temperatures being forecast to rise above zero before the game and the ongoing work with heating on the pitch.

United trained on 70 per cent of the playing surface in temperatures that dipped to minus eight Celsius, having agreed the area in the shade of the stands would remain covered.

It is not the first time United have had problems with a pitch since Mourinho’s arrival. In July, the Bird’s Nest quagmire cost them a money-spinning pre-season friendly against Manchester City in Beijing.

Much more is at stake in Ukraine with progress on the line in the Europa League — with the overall winner going through to the Champions League.

United are already nine points off the top four in the Premier League, but Mourinho says that has not heightened the importance of this competition.

“No, we go in the same direction,” the Portuguese manager said.

“We assumed from the beginning that it was an important competition for us — and difficult because we play Thursdays and then we play Sundays.

“It’s a difficult competition to play together with the rest of the competitions.

“But we want to try to win it and while we are in the competition we will try to win it.

“Today we are in the competition, tomorrow we want to win it and we want to go to the knockout (stage) and we want to try and go as far as possible, step by step.

“The first step is a difficult one, which is to qualify from a very difficult group.”

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