Jose Mourinho was left cursing Manchester United’s draining fixture schedule and mounting injury list after being held to a 1-1 draw by Swansea.
United took the lead through Wayne Rooney‘s penalty, controversially awarded after Marcus Rashford’s dubious tumble, but were pegged back by Gylfi Sigurdsson’s fine free-kick after twice reshuffling their defence to cover injuries to Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly.
The Red Devils’ treatment room is already oversubscribed, while Marouane Fellaini is one game through a three-game Premier League ban, leaving Mourinho unhappy with the demands on his Champions League-chasing team.
United’s success in cup competitions this term has been a big contributing factor to their fitness problems but, not for the first time, Mourinho appeared cold in his references to England trio Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Shaw.
”I think Shaw has to be a big injury to leave the pitch after 10 minutes,” said Mourinho, who has been critical of the left-back on several occasions this season.
The Portuguese added on BT Sport: “I prefer not to speak about Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. I prefer to speak about (unused substitute) Juan Mata giving everything to be available. I am grateful for that.”
As for those who did play a full part in United latest gruelling outing, Mourinho was supportive despite losing points to the division’s third-bottom side.
“It’s very difficult, I cannot isolate the performance to the context. The context is nine matches in April, 810 mins of football, high levels of fatigue, big match after big match after big match,” he said.
“If I analyse the performance I will obviously find weaknesses, it’s not difficuly to find that but I cannot do that. The boys gave everything they can.
“It’s a consequence of our success but also of the calendar. You cannot be punished because we play the League Cup final, you play the final and then you have to play the (other) game in midweek.
“In the end it was a blessing we didn’t play the FA Cup semi-final.”
Time is short for United to pick themselves up for the next challenge, the small matter of a Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo on Thursday, and although Jones and Smalling are not expected back, midfield reinforcements are due.
“I don’t think they (Jones and Smalling) will, that’s my personal opinion, I don’t think they will but I know that the players I choose they give everything,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if I go with (Matteo) Darmian central defender, if I go with (Michael) Carrick or Axel (Tuanzebe), I trust the boys, the spirit is amazing, the group is phenomenal. Fellaini and (Paul) Pogba will be back for that game, so we have more options and we try with everything we have and we go again.”
On United’s penalty, Swansea boss Paul Clement said: “Replays show the player deceived the referee – there is no other way to look at it.
“You could say he has dangled a leg to get the contact, but he is (going) down before that, before there is any kind of contact.
“Lukasz was furious. He said he had gone down to get his hands on the ball, could see he couldn’t get it so came away from it, and that he (Rashford) had gone down before the contact.”