By Hanifat Mustapha:
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has admitted that he is wary of facing Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.
United have scored eight goals in their first two league games this season, but Mourinho is not taking anything for granted.
“Leicester’s game against Arsenal ended with a defeat but could have ended with a victory,” Mourinho said on Friday during his pre-match press conference.
“At home, they won comfortably [against Brighton last weekend], midweek [against Sheffield United in the Carabao Cup] they changed their whole team and they won very comfortably with players that probably, some of them they are not even going to be on the bench tomorrow. So, I think they are back to their normality and, for me, their normality is a very difficult match for us tomorrow.
“I think they are the same team as they were two seasons ago. Are they going to be champions again? Honestly, I don’t think so because there are many teams that I don’t think all of them are going to fail. But I think in terms of their qualities, I think they are the same team and they are playing exactly the same way they played before.”
Mourinho then praised his former player Wayne Rooney, who retired from international football this week.
“He told me the night before,” Mourinho revealed. “I am nobody to tell him agree, not agree, to do it or not do it, just listened to his reasons and I understand his reasons. He does it for Everton, he does it for his family, so I have no complaints. I just realise, like many other people, when he retires, you realise how many matches he played, how many goals he scored, what he represents for the football in this country and many congratulations for his career with the Three Lions.”
Mourinho also admitted that United face difficult games in the Champions League after being drawn against Benfica, Basel and CSKA Moscow.
“I think it’s a dangerous group and, if you go to the recent history of United, United lost against Basel, United couldn’t beat Benfica in two matches, I think also against CSKA Moscow the last time was 0-0 or 1-0 or something,” he added.
“I know the three places, I never played against Benfica in the Champions League but of course, I know the dimension and the quality. I played a few times against CSKA, I played against Basel too, I know the places. It’s not going to be easy.”
Mourinho praised Anthony Martial who has scored two league goals in two games despite not starting any of the games.
“I think when you have some talent, you cannot waste it,” the former Real Madrid coach said.
“I think when you’re blessed with some talent, you have to fulfil that talent, you have to explore that talent, you cannot be happy just with glimpses of talent. I want more from him because he has all the qualities for that. But I think he understands me better too and the personal relation [between us] is good, so again Anthony, I hope he’s going to better this season than last season.
“I think Henrikh [Mkhitaryan] understands me, and to be honest, I understand him because in the beginning of the season if he understands me better, he would have started better,” Mourinho continued. “But at the same time, if I understand him better, I would probably help him in a faster way than I did. But, we spent our time together, working together, learning about each other. The second part of last season was good for him and I believe, with his talent, that this season is going to be even better.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed a new Manchester United deal on Thursday, which delighted Mourinho.
“I’m really happy that he’s with us,” Mourinho revealed. “Because [it] shows two things for me – it shows me the dimension of the player and the dimension of the club. The dimension of the player because it would be very easy for him to say goodbye, to say it’s enough, one European competition, had success at Manchester United, big injury, goodbye. He doesn’t do that. He wants to follow his other dreams and he wants to play football at the highest level.”
“I don’t want to think about it when he’ll return, I just know he’ll miss the Champions League group stage. I just think he will be an extra man for us in the second part of the season. But I have no idea at all.”