Man Utd VAVEL Weekly Q&A: 'Prioritise the Europa League'

In a new weekly series, Manchester United VAVEL's writers speak about the main themes of the past seven days.

The Reds confirmed a place in the Europa League semi-final with a late winner from Marcus Rashford and rested a number of players, with eight changes made, in a 2-0 win against Burnley as both Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney returned to the starting line-up and scored.

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Was Manchester United’s 2-0 win against Burnley their most comfortable of the season? They didn’t concede a shot on target.

Craig Millar: United were fantastic. Considering a difficult week, they were fantastic. It wasn't against Chelsea, but United were excellent. They look like they are ready to fight in adversity

Ninad Barbadikar: Considering how good Burnley have been at home this season, it was an excellent performance from United; efficient in finishing their chances and capitalising on any slip-ups in defending from the home side. The fact that they had zero shots gives us a lot to be optimistic about for the rest of the season.

Alex Turk: Considering Burnley had only lost 25% of their league matches at Turf Moor this season prior to kick-off, United were surprisingly comfortable. Was it the most comfortable win of the campaign? It's tough to say because of the way the team have looked assured in so many of their games under Mourinho, especially away from home. But, the threat was certainly there from the Clarets and the back line dealt it perfectly, which really underlined the tactical detail José Mourinho looks at in his match preparation.

Neil Leverett: It's hard to answer the both truthfully and accurately. Burnley appeared to be in 2nd gear as Premier League survival is tantalisingly close - perhaps already so - as they limp across the line and aim for a second successive season in the top flight for the first time in the club's history. That said, Daley Blind stepped in admirably for Rojo and Eric Bailly seemed his assured self in subduing the lively Robbie Brady.

With Liverpool losing, Man City and Arsenal not in action, and United winning, is Mourinho wrong to prioritise the Europa League over top four already?

Craig: No chance. It is clear he is rotating but he is pushing the squad players. Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney out wide was a great tactic.

Ninad: I believe Mourinho is trying to take it game by game and hasn't necessarily shown signs of prioritising the Europa League yet. He's said before that the team will keep trying until it's mathematically possible, so it's still there for United. Liverpool's result is a timely boost for the Reds going into the final phase of the season, with key fixtures against Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal coming up, United hold their fate in their own hands.

Alex: I completely agree with his mindset being the Europa League is a trophy and top four isn't, but I don't actually think he is prioritising one or the other. Mourinho is the type of manager who'll do anything to get into the mind of his counterparts, and I believe that this is the case whenever he plays down United's top four chances. Three points off third with two games in hand, why would you prioritise another competition over the Premier League?

Neil: Absolutely not. The fight for the top four remains in the balance even more with Arsenal's games in hand, after the Gunners beat Thursday's noisy neighbours. A way into the Champions League via the Europa League is but three games away. It's a no brainier for José.

While results have been good, injury news has been awful for Mourinho. Ibrahimović and Rojo have both suffered ligament damage. Can those two setbacks actually provide United with motivation and provoke a response from the rest of the squad?

Craig: I think we have already seen that. Ibrahimović has been United's best player but Rojo has been excellent also. Yet the Chelsea game and now Burnley show United have options. The injured duo are a big loss but United can still prosper potentially.

Ninad: The initial impressions seem to be encouraging. Although, in reality, Rojo's loss seems much more of a setback than Ibrahimović's injury. While the Swede has no doubt been instrumental for United in the season so far, with the options that United have up front, and with Marcus Rashford's return to form, Manchester United's attack is good enough to withstand Ibrahimović's injury. Rojo's loss is definitely an untimely injury because of the excellent displays he had alongside Bailly, his injury adds to the pre-existing worries in defence with Jones and Smalling being long-term absentees. Blind will need to step up at centre-back once again to help United's cause. The squad seems motivated to get the job done without some of the star players and we'll have to wait and see how we cope in the big games without some of our big players.

Alex: 100 per cent. Yes, both are big names and big personalities in the dressing room so it's likely that results will be affected. However, the main thing it does is present a huge opportunity for certain players the manager isn't sure about yet, Martial and Blind for example, to prove why they should be a part of this evolution. Martial got his chance today in Zlatan's absence, and took it magnificently well with Mourinho stating after the match that United now have "an extra player".

Neil: As we saw with Blind on Sunday, there are individuals waiting to impress José ahead of another summer of potential upheaval off the field. Martial in particular has been much maligned this term and with a move for Antoine Griezmann in the offing, the younger Frenchman will be keen to stake a starting berth in attack next season. With the case Rooney, should he seek a move away, the relative veteran is keen to show he still has goals in his locker

And was Mourinho irresponsible in leaving Pogba and Bailly on the pitch on Sunday, with the pair playing 120 minutes against Anderlecht?

Craig: Irresponsible is harsh. He knows his players and he is down to the bones. I think he could have relieved Bailly for Timothy Fosu-Mensah, but I think players can play consecutive matches and Mourinho will live by the decisions.

Ninad: With the packed run of fixtures and Mourinho's complaints of fixture congestion and fatigue earlier this year, it was certainly strange of him to leave Bailly and Herrera on the pitch. He needs to start showing his trust in the likes of Tuanzebe and Fosu-Mensah, he can't just speak of giving them a chance and not do it when the situation is favourable. Bailly looked a little shaky towards the end against Burnley and Pogba is potentially missing the game against City, it was irresponsible of Mourinho to not rest his best players ahead of the derby.

Alex: Absolutely. It was evident that both players were fatigued past the half hour mark, so why not bring on Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe? Burnley weren't exactly pressing and United were sitting back so to give the youth players a run out would've been a nice thing to do. Now, both Pogba and Bailly finished the game with slight injury concerns ahead of the massive derby on Thursday so it wasn't exactly wise. If Mourinho isn't trusting youth, why not bring Michael Carrick on earlier instead of waiting until Pogba is forced off? It didn't really make sense to me.

Neil: Pogba has been out with injury in recent weeks, so should be rested sufficiently. With regard to match time, Carrick could have come in late at Turf Moor to replace Pogba, but to call Mourinho irresponsible would be - even for the Portuguese - harsh. Hindsight, however, could yet provide a different answer if the Frenchman were to suffer fatigue related injury.

Finally, are Mourinho’s tough love tactics towards his young players paying off?

Craig: Ha! Good question. I think his handling of Shaw, Rashford and Martial has been 'different'. It is clear it has been designed to spur a response and appears to have worked. It will be interesting to see if he can start to pull through less high profile youngsters like Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe and Borthwick-Jackson (currently on loan at Wolves) in the near future.

Ninad: Shaw and Martial's recent displays have proved that Mourinho's man management seems to be working, he's making the youngsters work harder than ever to get their chances and in doing so, the youngsters have displayed a better form in their general play. He has trusted Rashford all season, Shaw and Martial, among others, need to learn from the United no.19's approach and what he's done to win the manager's trust.

Alex: Mourinho's 'tough loving' towards Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw has been widely criticised but if recent performances are to go by, there's certainly improvements being made. It was a bit harsh to publicly shame Shaw after the 3-1 defeat at Watford so close after coming back from his leg break, many will agree, but maybe it's what was needed to get the left-back up and running again. Both players, in my eyes, weren't showing the current attitude to positively catch a new boss' attention in the first half of the season, but, it seems like José's strategies are finally starting to pay off and we'll be seeing the best from them in the 2017/2018 campaign.

Neil: Mourinho's so-called 'tough love' stance has been criticised, particularly with his younger stars. Luke Shaw continues to be a peripheral figure on the left, but José has been the face of encouragement for the English fullback in recent weeks. Marcus Rashford hit his straps versus the title favourites last weekend, but on Sunday with Ibrahimović absent was robbed of a obvious starting berth - rotationally or not. The question is too soon to answer with any real commitment. Indeed, only the final weeks of the season can point to any real indication.

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