Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young will all travel to the Europa League final on crutches to support their Manchester United team-mates, says Jose Mourinho.
United take on Ajax next Wednesday in a season-defining contest that could see them land a second major trophy of the season and earn a place in next season’s Champions League.
This season’s heavy fixture burden, often lamented by Mourinho, has left the club without first-team stars including Ibrahimovic, whose contract is set to expire.
But the manager insists the injured quartet will all travel to Stockholm with the rest of the squad as he hailed United’s team spirit.
“Everybody goes,” Mourinho told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against Crystal Palace.
“We have a few in crutches but everybody goes. Fantastic group of players, fantastic spirit since the beginning of the season, difficult run, lots of matches.
“We spent more time travelling, playing with hotels than at home because 60-something matches means 140 days in hotels.
“So half of the year we spent together and that is only possible when the spirit is amazing.
“Crutches for Shaw, Young, Rojo and Zlatan, but we all go together.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 18, 2017
Mourinho could not resist another mention of the fixture schedule United have faced, insisting observers are not doing enough to emphasise how difficult their calendar has been.
“Our biggest problem, of course the number of matches is unbelievable,” he said.
“I know some people like to lie. I think they are paid not to lie they are paid to be honest and speak from their knowledge to the people that watch TV and read papers. But some of them lie.
“The reality is that since January we have played 37 matches, and in the Premier League are 38 matches so we have played a complete Premier League minus one match in five months – which is what a team normally does for a year.
“And we had four big injuries with surgeries that reduced immediately the number of players.
“Then our squad was reduced to a number of players that put us under big problems.
“Imagine now we have Zlatan, Rojo, Shaw, Young, we are not speaking about playing so many kids [against Palace].
“But I think 37 matches in five months – we are the team with more [most] matches in Europe. We play every match possible minus two.
“We played every match in the FA Cup except the semi-final and the final so that red card to Ander Herrera [in the FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea] was a blessing to us.”
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