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Mourinho fears Man Utd fixture pile-up

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Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho took the helm at Old Trafford in May 2016 © AFP / Lindsey PARNABY

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Jan 25 – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho expressed concern on Wednesday that the Premier League’s fixture planners could ruin his side’s top-four hopes if they reach the League Cup final.

United carry a 2-0 lead into Thursday’s League Cup semi-final second leg at Hull City and will face either Liverpool or Southampton at Wembley on February 26 if they progress.

If they do reach the final, the derby fixture with Manchester City scheduled for that weekend will be moved and Mourinho is concerned television demands could see it rearranged for an inconvenient time.

“For the match against Manchester City, I am sure they will choose an amazing moment, difficult for us, to make us play against them,” Mourinho told his pre-match press conference at United’s training base.

“Then there is the Europa League. The Europa League is a non-stop competition. The Champions League has the last 16. In the Europa League, you have to play last 32, last 16.

“If we progress, it’s going to be really difficult, but let’s see.”

Hull City’s Tom Huddlestone (left) tackles Manchester United’s Juan Mata during their League Cup semi-final match at Old Trafford, on January 10, 2017 © AFP/File / Oli SCARFF

With the club going strong in four competitions, they could end up playing 66 games by the end of the season and that does not include possible FA Cup replays.

That would take United close to the all-time record for an English club in one season, held by Arsenal, who played 70 competitive matches during the 1979-80 campaign.

United are sixth in the Premier League, 14 points below leaders Chelsea, and host second-tier Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

– Ferguson support –

Asked if United could win four competitions, Mourinho said: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I know it’s going to be hard if we go step by step. It’s if, if, if. We go to the field of the ifs.

“At this moment, we have a 25 percent chance to win the EFL (League) Cup, which is the first competition to be decided.”

Mourinho, who celebrates his 54th birthday on Thursday, attended his press conference with a new cropped haircut.

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba in action during the League Cup semi-final match against Hull City at Old Trafford, on January 10, 2017 © AFP/File / Oli SCARFF

But he laughed off claims it was a sign he is gearing up for the business end of the season.

“No. The haircut is a privilege,” he said. “I can do it and in one month I have a new wig. It’s just a privilege that some of you can’t do it.”

Mourinho received praise from former United manager Alex Ferguson in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday.

Ferguson believes United are playing well because Mourinho has calmed down.

“The support I feel is the support I have always felt with him, except when I was a direct competitor and playing against his teams. But I always felt this kind of support,” Mourinho said.

“I felt the same when I was abroad in Italy and Spain. Friends wishing good to each other, supporting each other by a simple SMS that can mean a lot in a certain moment.

“He is very respectful too. He doesn’t want to be around. He doesn’t want to come many times. I think he feels completely free. I told him this is his house always and forever.

“Just a couple of times he travelled with us on the bus and the train. He visited us once. We know that this is his club and his life and that he is supporting us.”

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