Sports

Mourinho predicts 'trouble' as United faces fixture pile-up

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho attends a press conference at the Aon Training Complex, Manchester, England, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Manchester United will play a Europa League round of 32 soccer match against Saint-Etienne on Thursday. (Martin Rickett/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho attends a press conference at the Aon Training Complex, Manchester, England, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Manchester United will play a Europa League round of 32 soccer match against Saint-Etienne on Thursday. (Martin Rickett/PA via AP)

MANCHESTER, England — Jose Mourinho expressed his concern about the potential schedule logjam facing Manchester United in the final months of the season, saying Wednesday it poses the team "many, many, many problems."

United is still involved in four competitions — the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Europa League and the League Cup.

"If we progress in the competitions," Mourinho said, "we will be in trouble."

United is through to the last 32 of the Europa League — it plays French club Saint-Etienne in the first leg on Thursday — and has also reached the last 16 of the FA Cup. There are 13 rounds left in the Premier League, in which United is in sixth place and fighting for Champions League qualification through a top-four finish. And United has got through to the final of the English League Cup against Southampton on Feb. 26.

With 13 weeks left in the season, United could have 27 games to play. Multiple games per week would be commonplace, especially since United is in good form with only one loss in 22 games in all competitions.

"We cannot choose competitions at Man United," Mourinho said.

For that reason, Mourinho is set to play a strong team against Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford, in a competition that offers the winner an automatic place in next season's Champions League.

"The Europa League is a not a competition we want to play," Mourinho said, "but we play."

Mourinho said Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Phil Jones will miss the game because of injury. Paul Pogba is set to play, which will mean the France midfielder taking on his brother, Florentin, for the first time in a competitive game.

"It's a good, nice destiny," Mourinho said. "I think only mum Pogba is in trouble. It's impossible for the lady to choose. I know, from Paul, that the mum wants a draw."

Florentin Pogba, a defender, arrived in Manchester with a special haircut for the game. In one side of his hair, he had a "6'' (the number of Paul's jersey at United) and in the other he had a "19" for his own number at Saint-Etienne.

"We were giving each other some stick after the draw (in December)," Florentin Pogba said Wednesday, through a translator, "but we've then had so many games that we've not really had a chance to discuss this game. I will definitely swap shirts with him."

Asked if they had ever come across each down the years in sports, Florentin Pogba — the older brother by three years — said: "I beat him at table tennis!"

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80