Mourinho quick to bait the Blues


 Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates with some pitch-invading fans after scoring Manchester United’s winner in Sunday’s 2-1 FA Cup fifth-round victory over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, Blackburn.

Jose Mourinho said Manchester United’s FA Cup quarterfinal against Chelsea will preoccupy the Blues more because they are in fewer competitions than his Red Devils.

United battled into the last eight with a 2-1 fifth-round victory at second-tier struggler Blackburn Rovers on Sunday.

Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench to combine for the latter to net a second-half winner at Ewood Park, maintaining United’s interest in four competitions.

Premier League leader Chelsea is chasing the domestic league and FA Cup double, but, with no European involvement for the Londoners, Mourinho was quick to revert to his favored mind games when asked about drawing his former club.

“I have no reaction,” said the United manager.

“I have to play Saint-Etienne (in the Europa League), I have to play the final, I have to play, hopefully, another game in the Europa League, I have to fight for a top-four position in the Premier League.

“So I have so many things to think about. Probably Chelsea can only think about that because they are champions (elect).

“They have nothing else to play for. The FA Cup is something I believe is important for them.”

United has not won at Stamford Bridge since 2012, and most recently in west London slumped to a 4-0 October loss, Mourinho’s worst Premier League result.

This week United travels to France with a 3-0 lead for the second leg of its Europa League last-32 tie against Saint-Etienne and then plays Southampton in the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

United’s scheduling problems might have been worse had it faced an FA Cup replay against Blackburn.

After Danny Graham’s Rovers opener was canceled out by England striker Marcus Rashford, that appeared a likely outcome.

But Pogba and Ibrahimovic combined for a goal that underlined their growing understanding as the latter took his season tally to 24 goals in all competitions.

‘Right attitude’

“People learn how to play together, that’s normal,” said Mourinho.

“They’ve played together for seven or eight months, so I think the connection between quality players is helped by time.

“The number of goals Zlatan would score, I didn’t know. I knew he would be a very important player for us.

“I didn’t know whether it would be one more or one less goal, but I knew what his contribution would be.”

In contrast to his criticism following Thursday’s triumph over Saint-Etienne, Mourinho was complimentary of all his players, and was relieved they avoided the same fate that befell top-flight Burnley and Leicester against lower-league opposition on Saturday.

“Today they were ready,” said the Portuguese.

“I think they felt it was a really difficult match and I think what happened yesterday, with every Premier League team in difficult situations, was one more alert.

“So the players knew it would be difficult and came out with the right attitude. I’m pleased with that.”

Mourinho will travel to Saint-Etienne without Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones, who missed the Blackburn game with injuries and are doubtful for Sunday’s League Cup final.

Blackburn boss Owen Coyle must now focus on the 1995 Premier League champion’s relegation battle.

“We showed today that we are not a coat of paint away from being a very good team,” he said.

China Daily

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