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Mourinho calls on United players to put on a performance for Munich tribute

By Simon Peach

Jose Mourinho hopes to produce a performance befitting the Busby Babes as Manchester United prepare to pay their respects to the victims of the Munich air disaster.

Tuesday marks the 60th anniversary of the plane crash that killed 23 people, including eight players, as Sir Matt Busby's side returned from a European Cup tie at Red Star Belgrade.

Around 2,000 fans are heading to Munich to pay their respects on Tuesday and a commemorative service is taking place at Old Trafford, where a minute's silence will be held ahead of the Premier League match against Huddersfield today. Mourinho wore a Munich pin badge in the press conference previewing that game and spoke eloquently about the disaster 60 years on.

"I was telling MUTV that this is something that is part of my life, or part of my football culture, before I became Manchester United manager," he said.

"And why? Because it was such a tragedy that stayed in these last 60 years.

"So as Manchester United manager obviously it means much more but I think it belongs to every sportsman as one of the biggest tragedies.

"At the same time, it is a crucial point also in Manchester United's history - the reaction, the strength, the union after that situation. And I think tomorrow is an amazing day to show the respect, to show the passion for the club, the respect for them, the respect for their families, and I think it is a day to play well.

"I think it is a day to bring happiness, to bring joy, for people to be together, enjoying their colours, and at the same time with showing all the respect for the people and their families."

Players will wear black armbands today, when fans will congregate outside the Munich plaque from 1.30pm for an annual event consisting of readings, prayers and a rendition of 'the Flowers of Manchester'.

Supporters will receive a commemorative pack containing a limited-edition book about the disaster, as well as a complimentary copy of the matchday programme.

But while he has called for a big display from his side today, Mourinho has effectively conceded the Premier League title to Manchester City.

The Blues are 15 points clear of Manchester United at the summit and are showing few signs of letting up as the season enters February.

United have been City's nearest rivals throughout the campaign, but Mourinho concedes the gap is almost certainly insurmountable with 13 games remaining.

"The game is important for us because we need points to be the first of the last," the Portuguese boss said.

"We have to try to finish second." He added: "We are in this position all season. We were first for a few weeks and then I think we were always second.

"I don't remember us being, maybe third, but not fourth, fifth or sixth.

"We have been there since the beginning of the season, better than last season in every aspect: better in points, better in the position in the table, number of goals scored, the number of goals we concede.

"(We have been) better in everything so we have to try to stay there and it is not easy because (there are) very good teams."

The visit of Huddersfield is the kind of match United can ill-afford to drop points in if they are to clinch second spot. United head into the match without long-term absentees Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Eric Bailly, while Marouane Fellaini faces another spell on the sidelines with a knee injury that forced off the midfielder just minutes after coming on at Tottenham.

"No, no, it's not an anterior cruciate ligament," Mourinho said.

"It's not a complete rupture of any structure of the knee. But we need him and Champions League is arriving and lots of tough matches to play.

"Probably we lose (him) for a few weeks, but I cannot say two, three, four, five at this moment."

Mourinho was more forthcoming when it came to the return of Bailly and Ibrahimovic, expressing his hope that they would be available for the Champions League trip to Sevilla on February 21.

There have been suggestions the latter will soon be on his way out of Old Trafford to join Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy - reports Mourinho had nothing to offer on.

"I don't speak with players about media news," the United boss said.

"He is with me before training, he is with me after training - he never mentioned absolutely anything to me. Not an opinion, not a comment, nothing at all.

"So I presume that it is nothing true in the news because I suppose if there is any truth I would probably be first to know from him, at least one question."

Belfast Telegraph

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