Back at Wembley, Mourinho bids for 4th League Cup title
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 25, 2017 07:23 AM
Manchester United's manager Jose Mourinho is seated on the bench prior to a Europa League round of 32 second leg soccer match between Saint Etienne and Manchester United at Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint Etienne, France, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Many of the top coaches in English soccer have long viewed the League Cup as a hindrance in their pursuit of grander goals during the season.
The oft-maligned midweek competition — historically regarded as inferior to the world-famous FA Cup — is mostly used as an opportunity to field fringe players or give academy prospects a first run-out in the team.
Jose Mourinho has always taken a different view.
Since first arriving in England, Mourinho has seen winning the League Cup — the first piece of silverware to be handed out each season — as a potential catalyst to success in other competitions.
He won the League Cup in his first season with Chelsea in 2004-05, and went on to capture the Premier League a few months later. It was also the first trophy he won in his second stint at Chelsea, in 2015, and again he won the league the same season.
So it has been no surprise to see Mourinho go all out for the League Cup title in his first season at Manchester United. In a Manchester derby in the last 16, for example, Mourinho put out a full-strength team whereas City manager Pep Guardiola made nine changes. United won 1-0, providing such a boost in confidence that the team has lost only two of 27 games in all competitions since.
With United facing Southampton in the final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, Mourinho has the opportunity to become the first United manager to win the trophy in his first season at Old Trafford.
"I have so many good things in my career," he said Friday, "that I wouldn't be influenced by a little detail."
Don't be fooled, though. This means a lot to Mourinho, a serial hoarder of trophies wherever he has coached.
Mourinho acknowledges that he finds it hard to choose between competitions — mainly because he simply hates losing — so he invariably puts out strong lineups in most matches. Last week, he spoke of his regret at "throwing away" — in his words — an FA Cup match during a particularly busy period of the season during his first spell at Chelsea.
"For me, that was a lesson," Mourinho said. "For big clubs, a competition is a competition. You are in them to try to win, to try to do things."
Mourinho also won the League Cup with Chelsea in 2007 and will move level with Nottingham Forest's Brian Clough and former United manager Alex Ferguson if he captures a fourth on Sunday.
"It would be good for the club and good for me," Mourinho said. "The club won a trophy last season (the FA Cup under Louis van Gaal). Let's try to win another one this season."
United will be without attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan because of a hamstring injury sustained in a win over Saint-Etienne in the Europa League on Wednesday. Michael Carrick also came off injured in that game with a calf problem, but should be fit.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80