Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has had his say on Stoke City and Alexis Sanchez as he faced the press ahead of Monday night's fixture against Stoke at Old Trafford.
The manager looks ahead to Stoke's visit
United, currently sitting second, face a Stoke side slumped in the bottom three of the league having lost 3 of their last 5 Premier League fixtures, earning a win and a draw in the other two. The Potters are currently managerless after sacking Mark Hughes following the FA Cup defeat to Coventry City last weekend, but Mourinho doesn't think that this will make Monday's game any easier:
“They have a manager. I was not inside but from the outside, I think he’s a guy with great qualities to do the job for them, he was always a loyal member of Mark Hughes’ staff, like Mark Bowen, they were always very united and a strong group."
"Ed is just continuity, so I don’t think for the players it’s a different situation, probably they train the same way and Ed thinks the same as Mark Hughes and is about continuity and not about dramatic change, which is not good at this time of the season."
"He has conditions to do the job and they are coming to give us a very difficult match as they always do.”
Zlatan Ibrahimović remains absent for the match having not featured since Boxing Day, although Mourinho is expecting the Swede to be available soon.
"He fought like a tiger [to come back from injury]," Mourinho said. "He was starting having minutes here and there and had a start and had 60 minutes of one game, start another one and had 45 and he was not happy with his feelings."
"He consulted other doctors, other opinions and we all make the decision to stop, (get) treatment and when (he's) feeling really good come back to the work and the date for him to be back to training with the team was around end of January, beginning of February, so let's hope his feelings are better and we have him with us as soon as possible."
Has Mourinho staked interest in Sanchez?
The media understandably were eager to make the ongoing speculation of Alexis Sanchez's move from Arsenal to United the topic of the conference. United are said to have overtaken Manchester City in the race for the Chilean who has six months remaining on his contract.
Mourinho wasn't keen on giving away much information, and neither did he put the speculation to bed. The Portuguese admitted that Sanchez is "a phenomenal player" despite saying “I don’t know if it’s ethical or correct to be speaking about players of other clubs.”
The boss continued: “At the general level what I can say is myself and the Manchester United board, the owners, we don’t believe a lot in the January market.
“We don’t believe in signing a player just to sign a player, just doing something - we don’t believe in that.
“What we believe really is there are some players in football world if you have the chance to sign them in January, March or July, you have to try, and that’s it.
“But in relation to Alexis Sanchez, I don’t say a word."
“The only word I can say is that he’s a phenomenal player, apart from that Arsenal player, and I feel I shouldn’t say much more than this.”
United take advantage of break in fixtures
As part of the host's preparation for the encounter, Mourinho and his men jetted out to Dubai for a warm-weather training camp following the strenuous winter matches. The squad returned to Manchester on Friday after a break described as "very good" by a Mourinho impressed by the "unbelievable" facilities on offer.
"The prince's private facilities are better than any football club in the world. Unbelievable conditions to work, nice weather, three days of really, really good training."
“We developed things that we cannot develop when we have no time to train together. So hopefully we can improve our level because I really think it was good. We are all happy, we are lucky to play on Monday, which gave us this extra day to get back and, tomorrow, we are here again.”