In Brief

Jose Mourinho 'totally against' international friendlies

Man United will be without Chris Smalling and Phil Jones this weekend as manager says non-competitive games are pointless

It's not often Jose Mourinho can claim to speak for the country but the Manchester United manager has voiced the thoughts of many in saying he is "totally against" international friendlies.

For many football fans, the meaningless fixtures not only deprive them of Premier League action but force them to watch matches that are low on quality, low on commitment and high in tedium.

In Mourinho's case, it's more about the fact that the friendlies put his players at risk of returning to Old Trafford with an injury, and that's what has happened with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones both carrying knocks picked up on international duty, with Jones's toe problem inflicted by Smalling during training.

The pair missed the Three Lions qualifier against Lithuania on Sunday and neither will be available for United when they host West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

"I am totally against the friendly matches," said an irate Mourinho. "I think friendly matches for the national team only make sense before the final phases. A couple of weeks before the Euros or a couple of weeks before the World Cup makes sense. But mid-season friendly matches mixed with qualification matches, I don't think that makes sense. On top of that the matches are not really big matches so I am not a big fan."

It's not the first time a manager has questioned the point of international friendlies. Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp expressed similar sentiments during their managerial careers and during his time in charge of Chelsea, Roberto Di Matteo, complained about the fixtures. 

"I know the national coaches want to try out some stuff but I am not sure how much this benefits any of the players who are travelling from different time zones."

Some of the strongest criticism, however, has come from Arsene Wenger, who like Mourinho has seen several of his players return from international friendlies with injuries. 

"There are a lot of politics behind these games because when you see some teams travelling during that period, you think it is more to pay back some corporation rather than preparing a team for the next official game," he told the Daily Mail in 2012. "I believe the friendly games are there as well to help some federations to raise money."

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