Manchester United vs Zorya Luhansk: Jose Mourinho criticises television schedule as ‘poisoned gift’

United face Group A leaders Fenerbahce on October 20, in between two games in six days against Liverpool and Chelsea

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Jose Mourinho claimed Manchester United’s Europa League hopes have been compromised by the ‘poisoned gift’ of television scheduling which sees his team facing a crucial clash against Fenerbahce next month in between two games in six days against Liverpool and Chelsea.

United face a reunion with former striker Robin van Persie when Group A leaders Fenerbahce visit Old Trafford on October 20.

But despite claiming a narrow 1-0 victory at home to Zorya Luhansk on Thursday, failure to defeat the Turkish outfit would leave Mourinho’s team facing a battle to qualify for the knock-put stages.

And with a trip to Anfield on October 17, followed by Mourinho’s first return to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on October 23 – United also host Manchester City in the EFL Cup on October 26 – the Portuguese insists the fixture backlog will make it ‘very difficult’ for his team to progress in Europe.

“We need to be good to win matches in the Europa League,” Mourinho said. “We need to play seriously.

“We could play Liverpool on the Saturday or on the Sunday, but we play Liverpool on the Monday, so maybe we don’t have the best conditions because we play against two strong teams.

“We have this kind of poisoned gift of playing on Monday, which creates a very difficult situation, but we want to ty to qualify for the next round.

“There’s a long way to go, almost a month, but we will play against Fenerbahce with a good team. It’s impossible (to change the fixtures now).”

United, who lost their opening Europa League game against Feyenoord two weeks ago, sit third in Group A after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s second-half goal secured victory against Ukrainian opponents Zorya.

The goal came moments after Wayne Rooney was introduced as a second-half substitute, with the England captain inadvertently teeing up Ibrahimovic’s goal with a mis-kick

“He (Rooney) was laughing, saying he made a great assist,” Mourinho said. “But he gave me what the team needed at the time – a second presence in the box.

“It was hard work to get the win. We deserved to win and tried to win, but it was difficult. They were very organised, as we expected.

“We didn’t play amazingly well, but we had to do well to win.”