Jose Mourinho defends rotation policy as three more Manchester United stars are ruled out for season

The Portuguese rested a handful of players ahead of the Europa League second-leg against Celta Vigo

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Jose Mourinho has insisted his hands were tied when he rested players for Manchester United’s unbeaten-run ending defeat to Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.

United rested the likes of Marcus Rashford, Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Paul Pogba for the 2-0 defeat which all but ended their hopes of qualifying for next seasons Champions League via a fourth-placed finish.

Mourinho instead put all his eggs into the Europa League basket, with his side taking a 1-0 advantage back to Old Trafford from Vigo last week, and he explained it as “the difference between 4th, 5th, 6th, the difference is just to qualify for the Champions League but no trophy, no title, no honour, no prestige, nothing at all.”

Despite that, he was adamant that his team selection on Sunday was “common sense” given the fixture pile up and injuries – which have added Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Fosu-Mensah for the rest of the season.

“The situation is simple,” Mourinho said. “17 matches in seven weeks, with 16 players is impossible. It was not a gamble, it was a simple decision. It was a decision based on common sense. 17 matches in seven weeks in April and May.

“So since the moment we lost players, initially four of them in one week , we lost Smalling and Jones to the national team and Rojo and Zlatan against Anderlecht. After that we lost boys who could be alternatives - Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Fosu-Mensah.

“When we lost these boys it was impossible. It was not a gamble, but a consequence of our situation.

“We are in a situation now and we have to fight so let’s see if tomorrow we can do it and go to the final. But we will give everything we can. When you give everything, no problem.”

Mourinho, however, insisted that he was not thinking about the Champions League just yet, with two games standing between them and a return to Europe’s elite.

Mkhitaryan is one of United's stand-out Europa League players this season (Getty)

He also stressed how the Europa League presents United with the opportunity to win two European trophies.

“In this moment we don’t think about Champions League, we think about a title, we think about the possibility of playing the European Super Cup in August against a big club,” he added. “We think about these things and this gives no space for complacency.”

The Portuguese questioned the atmosphere at Old Trafford ahead of Thursday night and challenged United fans to get up for every game, saying he has noticed a difference in noise levels for different matches – which has been reflected in the side’s performance.

“I see a difference between games. I don’t think the Old Trafford atmosphere is consistent.

“Against Chelsea they wanted to play first min to last. Anderlecht it was not warm enough.”