Belfast Telegraph

Jose Mourinho responds in fixture congestion row

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho aimed an apparent dig at Graeme Souness in his programme notes for Sunday's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace.

Sky Sports pundit and former Liverpool boss Souness was critical of Mourinho after United's 0-0 draw at Southampton on Wednesday.

Mourinho has complained lately about the fixtures schedule his injury-hit squad have had to contend with and has been resting and rotating players ahead of next Wednesday's Europa League final against Ajax.

Speaking about Mourinho after the Southampton match, Souness said: "The last thing I would want is a manager continuously telling me I'm tired. You're handing an excuse to your players to not play well."

Mourinho handed full debuts to four youngsters in an experimental line-up against Palace, and he said in his notes for the contest at Old Trafford: "Like everyone else we (will have) played 38 Premier League matches this season.

"But as well we have played every possible match in the Europa League - next Wednesday's final will be our 15th in the competition - and we played the Community Shield, every possible match in the EFL Cup, every match in the FA Cup except the semi-final and final, so this season we will have played a total of 64 matches.

"This maximum we could have possibly played is 66!

"I have seen in the football media that certain pundits cannot understand why our players are tired.

"A pundit is not honest if they cannot forget their colours or if they try to hide the truth from their audience.

"It's not my fault if their managerial career was very poor.

"Our main goalscorer, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic), has had major knee surgery, as has a top central defender in Marcos Rojo. Luke Shaw has had surgery at a time when he hit his best form.

"Phil Jones and Chris Smalling had important injuries at the same time.

"Our postponed fixtures accumulated to the last month of the season, and in the last two months of the season we have played 16 matches.

"Don't we deserve respect for that? Don't we deserve to be analysed in this context?

"Didn't this team fight every second of every match? Didn't this team with the Community Shield and League Cup?

"Didn't this team beat the club record of 25 Premier League matches unbeaten in the same season? Isn't this team going to play a European final next Wednesday?

"I have to stand up and say that my boys deserve all my respect, and with my boys I will walk to Stockholm.

"We will go together, some on crutches, others limping, but 11 starting and another seven substitutes will go to the field of battle representing and fighting for our group of brothers, for the Manchester United family."

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