Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho insists he is not motivated by the prospect of finishing above Manchester City simply to claim bragging rights over Pep Guardiola.
The 54-year-old remains the only coach to have finished a league campaign ahead of Guardiola during the Catalan’s stellar career in the dugout, with Mourinho’s Real Madrid having pipped Guardiola’s Barcelona to LaLiga in 2012.
That record is poised to be broken this year, with City sitting behind Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool in the Premier League table with just six matches to play, while a defeat to United in Thursday’s derby would see them slip two points behind their city rivals.
Mourinho, however, claimed ending the season above City will not matter in the least if United are unable to claim a top-four spot in the process.
“It means nothing,” he told a news conference. “If we finish fifth and they finish sixth, we are above them, and it means nothing. But if they finish third and we finish fourth, they are above us but it means a lot.
“It’s not about Pep, it’s not about City, it’s about objectives. We want to try to play Champions League football and we still have two doors open [the league and the Europa League].”
“He’s not going to give up and he’s going to fight.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 26, 2017
United are facing a minor injury crisis ahead of the trip to the Etihad Stadium, with Mourinho confirming on Wednesday that Paul Pogba is not fit enough to feature.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Juan Mata are also unavailable, leaving the visitors short of options for the encounter.
The long-term future of Ibrahimovic remains in doubt, with the striker unlikely to return following knee surgery until the beginning of next year and his contract due to expire at the end of this season.
Mourinho insists he is not concerned about the 35-year-old’s long-term plans, though, and is simply anxious for him to recover as well as possible.
“I’m not interested in it, I don’t care about it. I just want the difficult surgery to go [well],” he said.
“We think he is in fabulous hands. The next step will be something that he really wants, which is what I was saying before the injury. He’s much more important than myself, what I want. I always want the players to be happy, to choose their future and I think this is what is going to happen.
“The future is a big surgery, a long period of recovering, but the future is also in the hands of a very strong guy. He wrote immediately on social media that he will stop when he wants, not when people think. So it looks for me that he is not going to give up and I’m really pleased with that.
“He fought all his life. I don’t see a reason for not fighting.”
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