Jose Mourinho brushed aside questions about Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford’s happiness as the Manchester United manager underlined how starting roles cannot be guaranteed.
With the World Cup coming into focus and the domestic season drawing to a close, questions over playing time and happiness have been raised about two of United’s talented forwards.
Rashford is reportedly becoming increasingly disillusioned by his lack of starts at United, while there has been similar speculation about Martial amid suggestions of an Old Trafford exit.
However, such talk was given short shift by Mourinho in the press conference previewing West Brom’s visit.
“If I was you, I would go ‘why does (Romelu) Lukaku play every match?’, ‘why does (Nemanja) Matic play every match?’,” Mourinho said when asked about Martial.
“You always go to the one (that does not play).
“If you want what I call dry answers, I have dry answers – and a dry answer is only 11 can start the match and we have 22.”
Mourinho had been similarly dismissive when asked about Rashford, countering a statistic about the latter’s lack of starts by saying he has more appearances than anyone since his Old Trafford appointment.
The United boss said the number of the England international’s appearances from the bench are “because I decide that way”, before brusquely downplaying the suggestion that it was hard to keep the squad happy.
“No, no, it’s just football,” Mourinho said.
“We cannot have 11 players, it would be amazing economically for the football clubs to have only 11 players and play always with the same 11, no injuries, no suspension, no fatigue. Nothing.
“It would be better for everyone to only have 11 but it is not possible, so at every club at every level, from the top of the world to the amateur football clubs, you need more than 11 players.
“And only 11 can start, it is as simple as that. There is nothing I can do.”
Mourinho used that point again when explaining why he would not sign another striker this summer as competition for Lukaku, who will come up against his former club West Brom this Sunday.
Back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero is the only absentee for the visit of the embattled Baggies, whose struggles this term have shocked a manager looking to build on last weekend’s 3-2 comeback win at Manchester City.
“I am, I am surprised (to see West Brom in the relegation zone),” Mourinho said.
“The quality, the experience of many of the players, the squad and the stability of the past years, it is a surprise for me that they find themselves in this position.
“I think it is a big challenge because they know that in football anything is possible until mathematically impossible. They know that, everybody knows.
“They still smell a chance but every match that is played if they don’t get points then they are closer to relegation, but I think they still believe.
“In our case, we come from a big result and during the week I was trying to fight that result by working well and hard and trying to make the players understand that it is not enough to deserve second.
“We need the points and obviously to finish fourth we need four or five points, but to finish second we need much more than that.
“And after three important points last weekend, we have to try to do these three (points) and be closer to the end of the season and second position, which is in this moment our ambition.”