Jose Mourinho has noted that Manchester United have given up on the Premier League as a route into the Champions League next season following their 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.
The 54-year-old, with Thursday’s second leg against Celta Vigo in mind, made eight changes from the side that won in Spain against Arsenal.
And the makeshift nature of Mourinho’s line-up was clear at the Emirates, with second half goals from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck giving the home side a deserved win.
Mourinho, speaking after the game, made it clear that United – strong favourites to progress to the Europa League final – had given up on claiming a Champions League spot through reaching the top four.
“Yeah, all on the Europa League,” he said. “Like we did today, we tried to play for a result.
“You can tell me we didn’t play with the best players, or the first choice at the moment, but you can’t say we didn’t try to win the game. And that’s what we’re going to try and do in the next three Premier League matches.”
We probably shouldn’t have expected much from United against Arsenal after Mourinho noted that, following his side’s 1-1 draw with Swansea, they had given up on the Premier League.
Any game against Arsenal is, of course, an important matter, but you could sense in the players – and indeed amongst many supporters – that United’s season was now condensed into two games: Celta on Thursday and, hopefully, Ajax in Stockholm. When European glory lurks just around the corner, anything else feels slightly superfluous.