Press Conference: FC Basel vs. Manchester United


Jose Mourinho is unconcerned with the state of the playing field ahead of tomorrow night’s Champions League tie against FC Basel.

After coming under scrutiny during the recent World Cup play-off between Switzerland and Northern Ireland, the Portuguese boss is patient enough to wait until the match is under way before assessing conditions.

With Basel locked on points with CSKA Moscow and United needing a point to secure top spot, a pristine playing surface is essential for European football’s highest level competition.

Quizzed on the prospect of what lies in store regarding the carpet at the St. Jakob-Park, Mourinho admitted he” wants to see after 20 minutes.”

“At the moment it looks ok. But I respect the effort in trying to make a positive pitch after it was so bad in the play-offs for the national team.”

Regarding team news, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have to settle for a substitute appearance despite his 15 minute cameo against Newcastle United at the weekend.

Having been sidelined for seven months, Mourinho is keen not to rush back the Swedish striker too soon.

“Zlatan goes on the bench tomorrow. He needs to play and he’s useful for us. He keeps the ball.

“If the team isn’t winning, his presence will be important.

“Instead of 15, he may play 20 or 25 minutes, but he’s not in condition to start.”

One player who is guaranteed to start is Chris Smalling.

Despite being overlooked for England’s recent friendlies, Smalling has performed solidly when called upon during the rotation and injuries that have taken place in the centre-back role.

He bagged a crucial goal against the Magpies on Saturday to give United the lead heading into half-time and the manager was full of praise the experienced defender.

“Smalling is playing all the time, and well.

“He has to play every match at the moment.

“Tomorrow he plays again but we don’t have Jones and we don’t have Bailly again,” stated Mourinho.

With three Premier League fixtures in seven days on the horizon, Mourinho may opt to rotate some of his squad to keep bodies as fresh as possible.

Nonetheless, the Portuguese will want to pick a strong side capable of getting the qualification job done on United’s first visit to Basel since that infamous defeat back in 2011 that saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s side crash out at the group stage.

The final group game this time around, when CSKA Moscow are welcomed to Old Trafford, is sandwiched between a trip to Arsenal and the visit of runaway leaders Manchester City, meaning further rotation will be essential when the Russians come to town.

A positive showing would do confidence no harm ahead of a busy period but booking their place in February’s Round of 16 will be top of tomorrow night’s agenda.

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