Jose Mourinho explains what could cost Manchester United a Champions League place

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League

Considering Jose Mourinho's underwhelming start to life as manager of Manchester United, the Portuguese has done brilliantly to have kept his side in three cup competitions.

The Premier League title may be a distant dream for the Red Devils, however, with the EFL Cup final later this month, Mourinho's men also have the Europa League and FA Cup to contend for.

But as is the case with any top club, at this stage in the season it can be difficult to manage and rotate a squad of players, to ensure they maintain their sharpness and fitness.

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And that is an issue Mourinho is having to contend with, as his side take on Saint-Etienne in the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday night.

Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Phil Jones have all been ruled out with injury, already decreasing the United boss' pool of talent, as the Red Devils seek home advantage before heading to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard for the return leg next Wednesday.

However, Mourinho's problems extend beyond Thursday and into the weekend, when they travel to Blackburn Rovers in the fifth round of the FA Cup just three days later.

It's an inconvenience that will impact managers up and down the country, but Mourinho's case is a bigger cause for concern - given the importance for United to return to the Champions League this campaign.

Liverpool hold advantage

The Red Devils are just two points off the top four, but Liverpool - directly above them in the table - have only the Premier League to focus on after falling out of the EFL Cup to Southampton in the semi-finals and a shock FA Cup exit to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Mourinho has admitted, per the Metro, that his side may well miss out on Champions League qualification for the simple fact that they are in a strong run of form which is seeing them being propelled into the latter stages of cup football.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League

"We cannot choose competitions at Manchester United. We know that our situation is really complicated," said Mourinho.

"The Europa League is a competition where we play on Thursdays and that makes it even more difficult, the accumulation of FA Cup, League Cup, match postponements, it’s really hard and if we progress in the competitions we will be injured."

Mourinho rejects Europa League interest

And the 54-year-old admits the Europa League is not United's priority, despite it representing a great opportunity for Mourinho to secure silverware during his debut season at Old Trafford.

"We play competitions to win and I think it’s also a good way to give a team experience and international experience is always a plus. Europa League is not a competition we want to play but we show it respect." Mourinho added.

Leicester City v Manchester United - Premier League

United face three games in seven days, starting on Thursday, and by the time they host Bournemouth in their next Premier League game in the first weekend in March, United may have lost further ground in their bid for a place in the top four.

The pressure is certainly on for Mourinho to manage his squad wisely over the crucial few weeks ahead, and it will certainly show United fans which competitions the Portuguese is prioritising before entering the business end of the season.

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