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Zorya Luhansk v Manchester United: Jose Mourinho spurred on to shuffle pack

By Sam Lovett

Jose Mourinho has left the likes of Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out of Manchester United's Europa League tie at Zorya Luhansk in order to "protect" them ahead of Spurs' visit to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Mourinho's men are looking to extend their Europa League campaign into the spring, which they will do if they at least draw their final Group A game in Odessa this evening.

If Feyenoord fail to win against Fenerbahce, then United would even progress with defeat in Ukraine, where their 19-man squad arrived yesterday afternoon without Carrick, Valencia and Darmian - all three of whom started against Everton on Sunday.

"The players I had to leave out to protect," Mourinho said. "I left them in Manchester. The ones I brought, I brought them to play and not to protect."

Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin have also been overlooked by the United coach.

The two have barely featured since the Portuguese's summer arrival and have been strongly linked with an exit next month.

Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have all travelled to Odessa but, despite the strength of his squad, Mourinho expects a tough challenge.

United clinched a 1-0 victory over Zorya last month but had to wait until the 69th minute to find the net at Old Trafford.

"The first game was difficult but it was also very difficult for Zorya and I think (tonight) is more of the same," Mourinho added.

"Difficult for us and also for them. We know it's a crucial match so if we lose we can be out and we don't want to be out, we want to go on.

"Zorya is out but they have a match to play and I believe they are going to try and win the match as well."

Mourinho also skirted the topic of United's dismal away record in Europe, which has seen just one win in the last three years.

"I only can speak by myself, I can only speak in my matches and we lost to Feyenoord, a game that we should win," Mourinho stressed.

"The team played well, the team had the game in control. And in Fenerbahce, another difficult place to go, we concede a goal in the first minute.

"But I agree that it is the reality if you want to qualify you cannot lose three matches, so that's why we need a point."

Henrikh Mkhitaryan knows better than most what to expect in Odessa having enjoyed a successful stint in Ukraine at Shakhtar Donetsk before moving to Borussia Dortmund.

The 27-year-old playmaker is confident of progress, but he was also adamant in his belief that the Europa League is not necessarily United's best chance of reaching the Champions League next season.

"It's always good to be here in Ukraine," Mkhitaryan said before training in minus seven Celsius.

"I have very good memories of my time here.

"I had four amazing years playing in the Ukraine and my last game I played in Odessa was a very good one for me because I scored my first hat-trick for Shakhtar, so I can say I am pleased to be here again," said Mkhitaryan, who was a star player in Donetsk.

"We didn't give up in the Premier League yet, so we are not saying we are out of the competition.

"We are still in the competition, there are a lot of games to play so we are trying to do our best to be in the top four and of course in the Europa League we are going to try and go as far as we can."

  • Zorya Luhansk v Man Utd, Europa League Group A: Chornomorets Stadium , Tonight, 6.00pm

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