Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has warned English Football League Cup final opponents Southampton the will name a full-strength side for the Wembley clash despite the club's fixture pile-up. The four-time winners of the competition are fighting on multiple fronts this season and having already played 41 times Mourinho has constantly complained about the physical demands of the season.
The Portuguese coach made six changes for the Europa League last 32-second leg against Saint-Etienne, with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Paul Pogba and Michael Carrick all starting the game. Mourinho appears set to keep faith in the trio among others for the showcase final.
The greatest selection dilemma facing Mourinho is whether to reinstate United captain Wayne Rooney. England's leading goalscorer has not played since the start of February due to illness and injury, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan's expected absence could see a return for the 31-year-old, who this week has insisted he is staying at Old Trafford amid offers to move to the Chinese Super League.
"Only the best 11 players," said Mourinho, according to the Manchester Evening News. "We win all together. It doesn't matter if you play or didn't play, if you play a lot or don't play much. I go for the best possible team. I have to make a decision. You know that we normally play two different systems. Sometimes we play with two midfield players and a 'Number 10', if you want to call it that. A final is a special match and he's an option for me."
Victory over Saints would see United claiming their second major trophy in as many years after they won the FA Cup in Louis van Gaal's final game in charge. But Mourinho says many of his squad still lack a winning mentality and is hopeful victory on Sunday [26 February] can trigger an era of dominance.
"There are some. Not all of them," the United boss added. "I've found people in my career that, in spite of [being] super talented players, [are not] naturally born winners or people ready to fight every day to win, and win and keep winning. The Zanettis, Lampards – these guys you don't find every day. But we have people who are showing to me that they want to win this match, and this match is what matters now.
"I think when you have a taste of good things, you want to repeat. When you are used to winning and you don't win, you miss it and you don't accept it. We all know football is changing. We all know that it is much more difficult than it was before. But last season, a very difficult season for the club and for the players, along with the manager, they managed to win a trophy. It was a good taste for them. So we have to try."