MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Mar 17 – The Premier League is partly responsible for English clubs’ underachievements in European competitions this season, according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
Continuing a recent trend, there are only two English sides left in Europe — Leicester City in the Champions League, United in the Europa League — compared to four from Spain and three from Germany.
Citing his own club’s packed schedule, Mourinho said the Premier League’s refusal to give teams more time to prepare for and recover from European fixtures was hurting their continental ambitions.
“I think they don’t give an ‘s’ about the English teams in Europe,” he said. “They simply don’t care. There are other interests that are more important.
“Every country, they try to do that little support to the teams in European football, but here it’s difficult.
“My time in Italy, they decided when clubs got to the knockout stages of the Europa League and Champions League, the week before, if they play Tuesday or Wednesday, they play on the Friday.
“In Portugal, every team that plays in Europe, they play on the next Monday. So every country’s doing that. Germany’s doing that.
“It makes no sense (not to do it). It’s just a little bit of common sense, if they want, or if they’re happy that we have one English club in the Europa League and one English club in the Champions League…
“I think we are good enough to have more.”
Mourinho was aggrieved United’s Europa League game against FC Rostov on Thursday was sandwiched between an FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea last Monday and a midday league game at Middlesbrough on Sunday.
“We should be the last team to play in the weekend,” he told reporters after United’s laboured 1-0 win over Rostov at Old Trafford.
– Karanka sacking ‘deserved’ –
“It’s as simple as that. We should play Monday or the last match on Sunday, not 12 o’clock.
“At least let us sleep a little bit on Sunday. We cannot even sleep on Sunday morning. We have to wake up at seven o’clock to eat and to come to the game.”
United lost Paul Pogba to a hamstring injury during the last 16 second-leg match against Rostov, which is expected to keep the France midfielder out of action for around three weeks.
Mourinho has picked Pogba for virtually every United game this season, but said it was because he refuses to “sacrifice” any of the competitions his team have competed in.
“Of course it was accumulation of fatigue. That’s obvious,” said Mourinho, whose side have played 11 games in just over six weeks.
“He was already feeling his hamstring in the first half. In the second half immediately he felt he couldn’t carry on, so even a physical monster like him felt it. Paul is paying the price.
“But in Rostov when I was speaking with the (UEFA) delegate about the conditions of the stadium, he was telling me, ‘If a player gets injured, no problem, because they have insurance.’
“I think in England it’s also a little bit of the same. ‘He gets millions, let him run. If he breaks, he breaks. He’s insured. No problem.’”
Second-bottom Middlesbrough are without a manager after sacking Aitor Karanka and Mourinho gave a sarcastic response when he was asked about the fate that has befallen his former Real Madrid assistant.
“I think he deserves to be sacked,” he said.
“Because in the first year when he arrived, the team was going to (third-tier) League One and he saved the team.
“In the second year he took the team to Wembley to play the (Championship) play-off final.
“In the third year, he had direct promotion. I think in the fourth year he deserved to be sacked.”
When it was put to him that Karanka had been a victim of player power, Mourinho nodded before adding intriguingly: “And in this case, I know the names.”