Belfast Telegraph

Fenerbahce v Manchester United: Europa League can provide the big lift-off to success, says Jose Mourinho

By Jack Austin

Jose Mourinho has admitted his opinion on the Europa League has changed as it may provide Manchester United's best opportunity to earn a Champions League spot this season.

The United boss has always devalued Europe's second tier competition, despite winning it with Porto in 2003, and has said it is "not a competition Manchester United wants".

The Red Devils face Fenerbahce in Turkey tonight after winning the reverse fixture two weeks ago 4-1, thanks to goals by Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and two from Paul Pogba.

The result left United joint top of Group A with six points from three games after losing their opening round game to Feyenoord.

The Europa League rules were changed in recent years, as the winners were rewarded with a place in the Champions League, something which has made Mourinho treat the competition with more respect.

"My opinion changed because the rules changed and the Europa League winner has a direct (path) to the Champions League," he said.

"In the last couple of years the Europa League for the big clubs has a different meaning.

"It's another way to qualify for the Champions League."

United have struggled of late in the Premier League and are without a win in four games as well as being on the wrong side of a 4-0 thrashing against Chelsea.

But Mourinho is pleased with the way the team is currently performing and labelled the reaction to the Chelsea defeat as "unbelievable".

"What I'm happy with is the performances," he added.

"Sometimes you win matches but you feel that period cannot last forever because the team is not playing so well.

"Other times we don't have good results but we feel that the way the team plays the good results have to arrive sooner or later," he said.

"I have a very good feeling towards the players.

"After the bad result against Chelsea, the team reacted in an unbelievable way."

Matteo Darmian will continue at right back in Turkey after Antonio Valencia underwent surgery on his arm, with Mourinho confirming the Ecuadorian will "be out for a while".

The United boss has, meanwhile, been fined £50,000 in relation to media comments he made prior to Manchester United's game at Liverpool on October 17.

An Independent Regulatory Commission heard that Mourinho accepted the comments he made on October 14 constituted improper conduct but denied they brought the game into disrepute, in contravention of Rule E3(1).

The Commission found the disrepute element of the charge proven and, as well as being fined, Mourinho was warned as to his future conduct.

Separate to this, Mourinho will serve an immediate one-match touchline ban after he admitted using abusive and/or insulting words towards a Match Official and accepted the standard penalty.

The incident happened in or around the tunnel area during half time in United's game against Burnley on Saturday.

As well as the suspension, the standard penalty for this breach of FA Rule E3 also includes an £8,000 fine.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph