Jose Mourinho claims the Premier League fixtures over the busy festive period have been arranged to “give rest to some and create problems for others”.
Manchester United face Sunderland on Boxing Day before Middlesbrough visit Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve, with a further two matches against West Ham and Reading in the FA Cup taking place in the first week of January.
Although all sides in the top flight are facing a similar pile-up of matches, Mourinho has suggested that the games are arranged to be more beneficial to some teams than others.
“The busy period is for some clubs and not for everyone because if you analyse there is no congestion for them, the fixtures are chosen to give some rest for some and create problems for others,” said the Portuguese.
“But we are used to it because we are in the Europa League, which creates more difficulties. We know that, so it is just more of the same and it’s good for us to have everybody available, but for Luke Shaw.”
Mourinho had told MUTV that Shaw is not far from a return to full fitness and he later confirmed the full-back is United’s only injury absentee, meaning Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling are in line to face Sunderland, while it is hoped that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be available.
“Chris Smalling is back, Eric Bailly is back, Marcos Rojo is fine, Daley Blind is fine, so centre-back is a position where it’s very important to have some stability in the options,” he said.
“We were in a difficult position a couple of months ago but now we are safe. We know that Bailly is going to the African Cup [of Nations] in January, but for the next three matches, we have them.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 23, 2016
Monday’s meeting will be the first time David Moyes has returned as a manager to Old Trafford since he was sacked by United in 2014.
Mourinho says he did not speak to Moyes for advice before accepting the United job this year and suggested he has been made to feel profoundly welcome, despite their inconsistent performances.
“No, I didn’t speak to many people and David was not a person I asked,” he said. “When you have Manchester United and you’re in another club, maybe you think twice. But when you don’t have a club, you don’t have a lot to think about.
“I thought about the difficulty of the job and tried to ask myself why the club was going in a difficult direction in terms of results.
“For me it was easy. It’s a difficult job, but easy to feel at home, to feel good in the club, to feel that the club wants to progress and the people want to be happy again. I felt good immediately.
“Obviously expectations are high and results up and down, we’re in a position that is not a position where we want to be, but in terms of passion for my work, my new club, feeling really happy here – yes.”
Mourinho went on to hail the form of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will be looking to extend the superb form that has seen him score seven times in six league games.
“I’m really happy for him because maybe some people could think, ‘top scorer, but not anymore at 35, not anymore because the Premier League is not Ligue 1’, but 35 for him is the same as 25,” he added.
“He scores goals and plays well and I am really happy for him because he will end his career on a high.
“He’s not ending his career in America or China so I’m really pleased with him, his record is good, it can improve, with no penalties, which is amazing.
“He had one penalty in 17 Premier League matches so I couldn’t be happier for him.”
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