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Feyenoord v Manchester United: It's not our dream, but we will strive for Europa crown says Jose Mourinho

By Samuel Stevens

Published 15/09/2016

Just for starters: Marcus Rashford will be in the United side for the clash in Rotterdam with captain Wayne Rooney being rested
Just for starters: Marcus Rashford will be in the United side for the clash in Rotterdam with captain Wayne Rooney being rested

Jose Mourinho has admitted the Europa League is not Manchester United's natural, or preferred, habitat, but has nonetheless challenged his players to find the motivation to win the competition.

United face Feyenoord this evening at the De Kuip Stadium and, speaking in Rotterdam 24 hours ahead of kick-off, Mourinho confessed it will be "difficult" for his side to feel the same excitement for a match considered more of a hindrance than a privilege.

United missed out on qualification to the Champions League after finishing fifth in the Premier League last term under Louis van Gaal, but the Dutchman's successor insists he will endeavour to make the best of the situation.

More: Feyenoord v Manchester United: Dirk Kuyt plotting more misery for his former foes

Mourinho said: "This is not a competition that Man United want. It's not the big dream of every big player, but we are not in the Champions League.

"We have come to win the game. We want to win the competition. It's difficult to do, but it's simple to feel it and to say. This is the way we want to approach the competition.

"For a club of our dimension, to do well is not to be out in the group phase. This is an important match for us."

Wayne Rooney, the United captain, is set to be rested for the Group A opener with Marcus Rashford due to start, but Mourinho brushed aside the suggestion that his omission is a manifestation of his nonchalance towards the Europa League.

"Wayne has played every game since the start of the season," he said. "He has also played 90 minutes for England and he played 90 minutes last weekend and I want him to be fresh for the next match. In the position he plays, I have lots of solutions."

Feyenoord have been forced to 'voluntarily' cut their 51,000 De Kuip capacity by half in an effort to avoid further sanctions after disturbances against Italian outfit Roma in February.

Uefa this month confirmed that just 1,400 supporters will be allowed to follow the 20-time champions of England after Feyenoord were handed a two-year suspended sentence which included a £42,000 fine and a match being played behind closed doors.

Mourinho added: "There is not a player or manager who wants to play in an empty stadium. We are lucky it is not closed, just half of it, but half is not the same as full. Every player wants a great atmosphere.

"I remember clearly what happened against Roma. I don't think this is Feyenoord. Feyenoord are much bigger than a few hundred who created that situation.

"But, in the end, the clubs are punished by these actions. The players are going to be punished, I am punished, (Feyenoord manager Giovanni) van Bronckhorst will be punished."

Ander Hererra, meanwhile, has promised to "never give up" in his efforts to adapt to life in the deeper midfield role assigned to him this summer at Old Trafford, which suits the style favoured by Mourinho.

Sat alongside his manager in Rotterdam, the Spaniard said: "I can make mistakes because I am human but what I am not going to do is give up. Never. I try to share my energy with the team, to win the ball back as quickly as possible.

"I will keep doing what the manager wants. I am a team player and I am ready. I will do what the manager asks me."


Manchester Utd

Europa League Group A:

De Kuip, Tonight, 6.00pm

Belfast Telegraph

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