Jose Mourinho still claims Manchester United can reach top four despite ‘miracle’ jibe

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Mourinho has once again created a stir at Old Trafford, though he insists United can get to the top four by the end of the season. (AFP)
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Updated 04 December 2018
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Jose Mourinho still claims Manchester United can reach top four despite ‘miracle’ jibe

  • Portuguese boss does not deny he said it would take a 'miracle' for his side to get into the Champions League spots.
  • The Reds face an in-form Arsenal at home on Wednesday.

MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho has played down comments he made to Brazilian TV saying it would be a “miracle” if Manchester Untied finished in the Premier League top four this season.
Recent draws have seen the Reds all to seventh in the table, some eight points off the Champions League spots.
But Mourinho is adamant he still sees a top-four finish in May as realistic, despite not denying the comments he made to a Brazilian television interviewer after Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Southampton.
“I don’t know if I said it or if I didn’t but if I used that word, it is not what I feel at all,” said Mourinho at his press conference on the eve of their match with in-form Arsenal.
“I don’t think we need a miracle at all. We need a good run of results. We need to not waste points that we shouldn’t waste.”
Mourinho had set his players the challenge of reaching the top four by the end of December when they returned from the November international break to begin a run of eight league fixtures in the run-up to the New Year.
Mourinho, who reportedly clashed again with French World Cup winning midfielder Paul Pogba after the 2-2 draw with Southampton, said if some players performed better they could stay in touch with the top four and then finish in the Champions League spots at the end of the campaign.
“Last week, before the Crystal Palace game, I said what my hopes and targets were, at the end of December, to be in that position,” he said.
“The target changed but let’s try to close the distance as best as we can and be very close to these positions.
“We need some players to perform better than they are. We need to perform better as a team, but it would be far from a miracle.”

Manchester United have found the going tough so far this season, they currently lie in seventh place, eight points off the top four. 

United started the week eight points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who are unbeaten in 19 league and cup games as they visit Old Trafford.
Mourinho agrees that seventh place is not good enough for a club of United’s stature.
Mourinho agreed it was unacceptable to be below Everton in the standings.
“I can agree, in spite of the fact that the investment Everton made was phenomenal and obviously there was a great improvement in that team from last season in relation to this,” he said.
“But I don’t think Everton will be in front of Manchester United at the end of the season.
“There are six teams that should stay in the first six positions, season after season two of these teams are finishing outside the top four.
“For example, last season it was Arsenal and Chelsea. And this season two of these six are going to stay outside.”
Mourinho suggested Arsenal’s good league form may have been aided by manager Unai Emery resting a number of his senior players for their Europa League matches.
“It will be a very difficult match for us because we are going to play against a good team in a good moment without having faced a backlog of matches because they are playing in the Europa League,” said Mourinho.
“When you play in the Europa League, you normally play with second choices and give good rest to the players.”


Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

Updated 24 May 2019
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Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

  • Roger Federer plays down chances of his winning the mega title

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday.

The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason.

Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud, Kyrgios slammed his racket to the clay and kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court.

Kyrgios was fined and lost ATP points but escaped suspension and was expected to play in Paris.

His withdrawal came only days after Kyrgios posted a video online in which he said the French Open “sucks” when compared to Wimbledon, where he trained recently.

In 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal. He was fined $12,500 and given a suspended 28-day ban. He also attracted criticism for deciding not to play at the Olympics because of a spat with an Australian team official, and for firing back at retired players who have offered advice.

Also on Friday, Roger Federer played down his chances of winning the French Open on his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, saying that title-winning form might not be “in his racquet.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion missed the French Open in 2016 through injury before sitting out the next two clay-court seasons in order to focus on Wimbledon.

But he will make his Roland Garros return on Sunday with a first-round tie against unheralded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Federer admitted that he is unsure of his title chances, but did compare his current situation with when he ended a five-year Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open in 2017.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said.

“A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.

“But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that’s a challenge in itself.”

Despite being the third seed, Federer faces a tricky draw, with a possible quarter-final against Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat him in the Australian Open last 16 — and a potential last-four clash with 11-time champion and old adversary Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Nadal said on Friday that he “doesn’t care” if he is the red-hot favorite to lift a record-extending 12th French Open title, insisting that there are a host of players in contention for the trophy.

The world number two holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over old rival Novak Djokovic.