Belfast Telegraph

Jose hoping for Euro boost from Rashford and Herrera

Hitting out: Jose Mourinho blasted rumours that Paul Pogba is unhappy
Hitting out: Jose Mourinho blasted rumours that Paul Pogba is unhappy

By Simon Peach

Jose Mourinho hopes to have Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera back in time for Manchester United's Champions League clash at Sevilla.

The duo missed last weekend's 1-0 loss at Newcastle with unspecified muscular injuries and will again be absent as United face Huddersfield in the FA Cup fifth round today.

However, Mourinho has not given up on Herrera and Rashford being available for next week's Champions League last-16 first leg at Sevilla.

"No (for tomorrow), a chance (for Sevilla)," the United boss said of the pair. "Yes (it is an important week), but let's go step by step. The next one is the one that we are out of the FA Cup or we are in the quarter-final.

"Tomorrow is black or white. It's not grey. Tomorrow is important because it's a knockout match. We are going to face the game in the best possible way.

"Sevilla is half of a knockout, so not as crucial as Huddersfield but almost."

Eric Bailly could return from a three-month injury lay-off at the John Smith's Stadium, while striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in training after a knee complaint.

Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind have also been sidelined of late, while highly-rated teenagers Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes are pushing for first-team chances.

"If, for you, promotion is that they train regularly with us, they have been promoted for a long time," Mourinho said when they were mentioned to him. "Scott McTominay didn't arrive here from the moon. Before he came to the first-team he trained with us many times last season.

"He came to us in pre-season and then we realised that with Andreas Pereira going to Valencia, we decided not to buy another player because we had Scott McTominay ready to step up.

"If that's the concept of promotion, the kids are promoted all the time. Maybe I will have one of the kids on the bench.

"This week we had a few players with injuries and small things we wanted to protect and they didn't train with the team. The kids trained with us yesterday and before that."

Talented midfielder Pereira should return a better player from this season's loan at Valencia, but Mourinho plans to bolster the middle of the park this summer given the impending retirement of United's captain.

"We need to sign a midfield player because we are going to lose Michael Carrick," the United boss said. "We need balance in the team. I told you that one or two months ago when we were speaking about the market.

"When some of you keep saying that we are going to buy that striker, that winger, I told you two months ago. You can accuse me of many, many things, but you cannot say that I lied to you."

Mourinho has also let rip about the "lies" surrounding his relationship with Paul Pogba.

The 24-year-old has dominated the Old Trafford news agenda this week after reports suggested the midfielder was irritated at playing so deep, and was even regretting rejoining United.

Mourinho was also reported to be annoyed by Pogba's inability to function in a two-man midfield, but all that talk has been dismissed out of hand.

"I think you are nice with your words because when you say 'a lot of speculation' (regarding Pogba) you should say a lot of lies," the Portuguese said.

"Because, and I can speak on Paul's behalf, Paul accepts that he has not been playing well. But that's all. I don't have to speak with you about my conversations with my players.

"It is my problem, it is the player's problem. A big lie that our relationship is not good, a lie that we don't communicate, a big lie that we don't agree with his positions and his involvement in the dynamic of the team.

"So, be objective and say what we all know: in the last couple of matches he didn't play well. Period. End of story."

Mourinho then confirmed Pogba will start at Huddersfield.

Criticism and scrutiny from pundits has clearly got under the United manager's skin - "I would like them to tell me which position Pogba played in against Newcastle" - and threw questions to reporters in the room.

Mourinho clarified that Pogba's preferred formation is 4-3-3 and playing as an "eight on the left", before urging the media to explain the game and not talk "b******t".

"He had a big injury during the season," Mourinho said. "He almost had surgery but the decision was not to do it and go to a conservative treatment, which resulted very, very well.

"He was playing phenomenal before that, he played phenomenal after that. In this moment, he is not playing well. And the team needs him at a good level and when he is not a good level the team is not as good as when he plays phenomenal."

FA Cup fixtures: Today: Sheff Wed v Swansea, Brighton v Coventry, West Brom v Southampton, Huddersfield v Man United. Tomorrow: Rochdale v Tottenham. Monday: Wigan v Man City.

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