Xavi urged his Barcelona side to show they can compete against an elite European side when they face Manchester United in a "spectacular" tie on Thursday.

Barca and United will do battle at Camp Nou in the first leg of a blockbuster Europa League play-off, with the return fixture to come at Old Trafford a week later.

Xavi's side are unbeaten in 16 games since they were consigned to a 3-0 Champions League defeat at home to Bayern Munich on October and they have reeled off 11 consecutive victories.

The Red Devils have also been resurgent under Erik ten Hag, losing only one of their past 15 matches and sitting third in the Premier League table.

Barca failed to make it out of their Champions League group, but head coach Xavi is relishing the opportunity to show the strides they have made as they go in search of a place in the Europa League round of 16. 

He said: "Tomorrow is a great match. It's a spectacular tie. Both teams arrived at the best moment of the season. Ten Hag has changed the face of the team. It's been hard for them, but they're doing a great job.

"I expect a game with a lot of intensity and rhythm. It's Europe and we want to show that we can compete against a top-level European rival."

Xavi does not believe the Blaugrana are favourites to advance.

The former Spain international said: "A lot will be decided at Old Trafford. I see two very close matches. The pity is that we won't play the second leg at home.

"I don't think we are favourites. There are very good teams in this competition, it's a very tough competition."

Xavi added: "United is a great club. They are not in the best moment in their history, but there are players who are in a great moment. In recent weeks they have been good and it will be very hard to win the game.

"We want to show that we are at a high level and that we all work hard and are aggressive. Tomorrow is an important test to compete in Europe."

It's a clash befitting a Champions League final, yet Barcelona and Manchester United will tussle twice over the next nine days just for the right to play in the last 16 of the Europa League.

A result of United's dreadful 2021-22 season and Barca's surprising failure to get out of their Champions League group means two giants of the European game find themselves in UEFA's second-tier competition.

While that might suggest a hint of both being fallen giants, these two teams are enjoying largely promising seasons, with Thursday's first leg at Camp Nou undeniably intriguing.

Barca are on course to win LaLiga for the first time since 2019, while United have made significant strides forward following the beginning of a rebuild with new manager Erik ten Hag. A Premier League title challenge could yet come to fruition.

But the Europa League is where their attention turns now, and United's bid to reclaim the title they won in 2017 – the last trophy they lifted, in fact – has them facing arguably the toughest possible challenge straight away.

The absence of Lisandro Martinez for the first leg due to suspension will be a huge source of frustration for Ten Hag, which highlights just how effective the Argentinian has been in his first few months at the club.

United prepare to suffer

Xavi's spell in charge of Barcelona to this point has been a little difficult to draw conclusions from. That's not just what critics think; there are also many, many supporters who remain uncertain.

They routinely win games without playing particularly spectacular football, and that's essentially the crux of both sides of the debate. Some fans may not be enamoured with the brand of football, but Xavi is getting results.

Since the start of the first LaLiga matchday with Xavi at the helm, Barcelona have amassed 112 points in 47 games – Real Madrid, who've played a match less, have taken 104. That's the same Real Madrid who won a league and Champions League double last year.

Now, he has Barca well on track to win the title this season. Even if they perhaps don't have the same entertainment value as Pep Guardiola's vintage Barcelona, Xavi deserves recognition for the transformation he's overseen, part of which is shown in their work rate.

They are tireless.

Former Barca coach Quique Setien, now at Villarreal, highlighted this after his team were beaten 1-0 by them at the weekend.

"There is something that this Barca has changed a lot, which is without the ball," he said. "The data is there: Barca is the team that runs the most without the ball. Seems surprising, doesn't it? Robert Lewandowski is the first defender."

How does this translate into output? Well, their 210 high turnovers is second only to Athletic Bilbao (223) in LaLiga, while Athletic and Atletico Madrid (35 each) are the only two teams to convert such situations into shooting opportunities more often than Barca (32).

Barca's 324 pressed sequences is bettered by just Athletic (330) and Rayo Vallecano (328), though Xavi's side allow their opposition on average only 8.8 passes before a defensive action. This is a low for LaLiga.

Altogether, these metrics highlight just how hard Barca work to get the ball back when they don't have it, and as such it brings into focus the kind of defensive pressure their opponents' centre-backs are put under.

The centre-back playmaker

That is, of course, where Martinez becomes relevant. Obviously his presence would likely be felt even if Barca didn't press with such intensity, as he's arguably been United's most consistent and impressive defender this season purely from a 'putting-your-body-on-the-line-and-battling-for-the-cause' perspective.

Yet, it's his ability on the ball that makes him key for Ten Hag.

Martinez's importance to United in this respect was as evident as ever during the weekend win at Leeds United. Until his 61st-minute introduction, Ten Hag's men had struggled desperately with their hosts' intensity.

Leeds were ferocious in their pressing, and although left-back Luke Shaw generally did fine in Martinez's place at centre-back, United instantly looked like they had more time on the ball once those two were in their rightful positions.

Martinez was dropping his shoulder to evade attackers, pinging long cross-field passes out to the right. Granted, you could make the case Leeds were tiring, and that's potentially a valid argument, but Martinez's performance wasn't surprising. It's just how he's played ever since making the move from Ajax.

Although he only came on with 29 minutes left, Martinez's 35 passes was only bettered by five of his team-mates and no one on the pitch (minimum three passes) had a better completion rate (85.7 per cent).

His ability on the ball makes Martinez effective at helping United resist pressure. He has lost possession 173 times in the Premier League this season, but that is just 12.3 per cent of his total touches. Only 11 centre-backs (minimum 15 appearances) have lost the ball less frequently.

This is despite his passing being positive and forward-thinking in nature, which is evidenced by the fact only Arsenal's William Saliba (22) has initiated more shot-ending sequences than Martinez (16) in the Premier League this term.

United now go into arguably their biggest game of the season – until next week's EFL Cup final – without him, a match where his strengths will have possibly been more useful than any previous fixture.

But if there's one positive, the need to highlight his importance makes a mockery of those who rushed to write Martinez off at the start of the season.

Andreas Christensen warned Barcelona must be wary of the "dangerous" Marcus Rashford, hailing Erik ten Hag's work at Manchester United.

Barca host United in the first leg of the Europa League on Thursday as the two European heavyweights battle for a place in the last 16.

Ten Hag's side have won 12 out of 15 games across all competitions since the World Cup break, with a resurgent United inspired by Rashford's superb form.

The 25-year-old has scored 13 times for United since the season restarted and Christensen expects a tough test from the forward at Camp Nou.

"He is in great form at the moment. I like him a lot, I love the way he plays. He is a direct, dangerous, and powerful player," Christensen said in a video posted by Barca's social media channels.

Rashford has netted 21 goals this term and has benefitted from the coaching of Ten Hag.

The Dutchman inherited a struggling squad after Ralf Rangnick failed to transform United in his short spell following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's' dismissal last season.

United sit third in the Premier League and will face Newcastle United in the EFL Cup final as the Red Devils search for their first major silverware since the 2016-17 campaign under Jose Mourinho.

"They have great quality and the way they play is good," Christensen said of United. 

"I think Ten Hag will take them to a different level. It will be a tough game, but I think we are in a great moment. Will be a great match."

Barca lead LaLiga by 11 points, with second-placed Real Madrid having played a game fewer, and Christensen urged the Blaugrana to seize the opportunity for success at the end of the season.

"I got here seven months ago, and I think it's been great," the 26-year-old continued. "I think we are on the right track. We want to win another title this season."

UEFA has confirmed a minute's silence will be held at each of this week's European ties as a mark of respect for the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Over 33,000 people are confirmed to have died after high-magnitude earthquakes struck southern Turkey and northern Syria last Monday, and the United Nations' aid agency on the ground says that toll is likely to double.

Turkey has said over a million people in the country are using temporary shelters after the tremors, while over five million people are estimated to have been made homeless in Syria.

Ahead of this week's knockout-stage matches in the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League, UEFA has confirmed the details of tributes to show support for those affected.

A minute's silence will be observed before every fixture across UEFA's club competitions this week, while a commemorative banner featuring the message, 'We are together with you', will be displayed in Turkish and Arabic.

A statement released by European football's governing body on Monday also confirmed black armbands could be worn at the discretion of teams and referees.

Last week, UEFA confirmed it would donate €150,000 to the Turkish Football Federation and an additional €50,000 to the Bonyan Organization and Tiafi, both assisting in disaster relief.

Trabzonspor are the only Turkish club in action in UEFA's competitions this week, hosting Basel in the first leg of their Europa Conference League knockout round play-off tie.

Istanbul Basaksehir and Sivasspor advanced to the last 16 of that competition as group winners, while Fenerbahce are into the same round in the Europa League.

Hatayspor and Gaziantep, two clubs based in the region effected by the earthquake, have withdrawn from the Turkish Super Lig.

Former Chelsea, Newcastle United and Everton winger Christian Atsu, who plays for Hatayspor, is still missing.

Xavi retains "blind confidence" in Ansu Fati and is baffled by talk of the Barcelona forward's future being uncertain.

Fati has made 20 appearances for Barca in LaLiga this season, but 13 of those have come from the bench with two of Raphinha, Ousmane Dembele and Gavi usually preferred out wide of star striker Robert Lewandowski.

Reports this week credited Premier League trio Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal with an interest in Fati, who has scored three league goals and provided three assists in his limited playing time this term.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's trip to Villarreal, Xavi said Spain international Fati can make a big impact now and in the future, questioning why rumours about his future were rife outside the transfer window.

"We expect a lot from him, I have blind confidence in him," Xavi said of the 20-year-old. "I have it with everyone. We have been shaping the squad based on what I wanted. 

"I have confidence with everyone and especially with Ansu. He is a player for the present and for the future. He has to have patience and give everything when he comes in, which he is doing.

"At this moment there is no one transferable. The market has finished, I don't know what we are doing talking about sales, we are playing the season. 

"We are talking about the sale of Ansu, who was not talked about all month in January. I don't understand it and even less in the Barcelona environment. I have a lot of hope for him."

Fati will hope to get a chance to impress at the Estadio de la Ceramica – he has scored four goals in five league appearances against Villarreal, more than against any other opponent. 

Barcelona must juggle two competitions in the coming weeks, with the first leg of a mouthwatering Europa League tie against United coming four days after their meeting with Villarreal.

Xavi, however, is taking things game by game, saying: "There is no priority, we want to win the titles for which we compete. The most important game is always the next one."

Barca are likely to be without captain Sergio Busquets for at least two weeks after the 34-year-old suffered a sprained ankle in last week's 3-0 win over Sevilla.

The Blaugrana great is yet to pen a new contract amid suggestions Inter Miami hope to lure him to Major League Soccer, and Xavi reiterated the midfielder will decide his own future.

"With Busi there will be no problem," Xavi said. "He knows that he is extremely important. He is a living legend and his personal decision will mark his future. Only he decides.

"We go as the president [Joan Laporta], Busi and I and there is a very good vibe. It will depend on Busi, what he wants to do."

Erik ten Hag anticipates Manchester United being without Antony, Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay for at least another week in a key period of the season.

United have played twice already in February and will have another five matches before the end of the month, including a two-legged Europa League tie against Barcelona and the EFL Cup final against Newcastle United.

Injuries have come at a bad time then, with Christian Eriksen out long term, Casemiro suspended and a further trio likely to be missing for at least the next two matches.

United visit Leeds United on Sunday, then Barcelona on Thursday, and Ten Hag was asked if Antony, Martial or McTominay could make the trip to Camp Nou.

"I can't say for 100 per cent, but I don't expect it," he said.

Although Eriksen was injured in a challenge from Reading's Andy Carroll, Ten Hag accepts other issues have occurred as result of a "tough season".

But United have been boosted by Marcus Rashford's stunning form and the return to action of Jadon Sancho, whose midweek goal in the home game against Leeds earned a point.

Sancho has been back in the fold since the start of the month, having previously been absent from any matchday squad since October.

"This is what makes this job so exciting," Ten Hag said of Rashford and Sancho. "It's wonderful to work with young people, to get the best out of them.

"Finally, they have to do it by themselves. But sometimes they need motivation, they need interaction, they need inspiration."

For now, Ten Hag's focus is on getting the best out of his team over this hectic stretch, rather than worrying about the latest talk of a potential European Super League.

"I'm aware of the dynamic, what's going on," Ten Hag said. "If they're coming up with new ideas, I'll have to look at it and make an opinion.

"I'm not aware, because we are playing so many games at this moment. We have to develop this team, we have some problems, some new players to bring in. That's where my focus point is, and it needs all my energy.

"On new European competitions, the people in this club will look at it and inform me if the time is there and the moment is there to make decisions, but the decisions are up to the club.

"I think the current structure [of European football] is good, but there will always be initiatives to make it better, to make the football better.

"That's what life is. People always want to construct better. This is a good thing. If it's in favour of the football, it's always good."

Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets is a major doubt to face Manchester United next week after the LaLiga leaders confirmed he sprained his ankle against Sevilla.

Busquets was injured inside four minutes of Barca's 3-0 LaLiga win at Camp Nou on Sunday after being caught by Youssef En-Nesyri and was substituted off soon after.

The 34-year-old, who has played in 27 of Barcelona's 31 games this season, underwent a scan on Monday that revealed he has a lateral collateral ligament sprain in his left ankle.

While no official timeline has been given for Busquets' return, the former Spain international is reportedly facing at least two weeks on the sidelines.

That would rule Busquets out of LaLiga games against Villarreal and Cadiz, either side of the first leg of Barca's Europa League knockout play-off round with United on February 16.

Barca travel to Old Trafford the following week, before concluding this month's fixtures with a trip to Almeria in the league.

Busquets' future at Barca beyond this season remains unclear, with head coach Xavi reiterating this week the midfielder will have the final say on whether he stays or leaves.

Xavi's side are now eight points clear at the top of LaLiga, with their routine win against Sevilla coming shortly after Real Madrid's shock 1-0 loss at Real Mallorca.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is not expecting to delve into the transfer market on deadline day despite losing Christian Eriksen to injury for three months.

United confirmed on Tuesday that Eriksen is likely to be out at least until late April after sustaining an ankle injury in the FA Cup win over Reading on Saturday.

He was on the receiving end of a heavy tackle from Andy Carroll, who went unpunished before eventually getting sent off for another two forceful challenges.

Losing Eriksen is a major blow for United given his prominence in his first campaign at Old Trafford, with Bruno Fernandes (2,603) the only outfield player to record more minutes on the pitch than the Dane (2,274) for Ten Hag's men this term.

United will suddenly be without one of their chief creators, as Eriksen's 53 key passes is second only to Fernandes (81), and he leads the way for assists with nine.

But Ten Hag is confident he has the options to cope.

"Of course, [Eriksen] is disappointed about [the injury], we are disappointed about it," the manager told reporters ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Nottingham Forest.

"It happens in top football, you have to deal with it."

He added: "As you said, something coming out on deadline day is difficult and you can't make policy on such bad injuries, but we have players in the midfield department, good players, we also have players who can fill the gap."

With Donny van de Beek out for the season, Eriksen's injury leaves Ten Hag with senior midfield options of Fred, Casemiro, Fernandes and Scott McTominay, while 17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo has made two appearances in cup competitions and been among the substitutes on a handful of occasions in the Premier League.

Zidane Iqbal, a 19-year-old Iraq international, has also been on the bench often this season, though he is yet to make his debut and had reportedly been lined up for a loan move.

Either way, Ten Hag accepts there will have to be a degree of adaptation regardless of who steps up because they will not have the same attributes as the Denmark star.

"I think you can never fill that because every player has their own characteristics and identity, so another player will always fill it in in a different way," he said.

"So, it doesn't mean that you have to be less successful, but it's quite clear that Christian Eriksen, for our squad, brings top quality and he has some specifics that are hard to replace. For instance, his impact in the final third, [with his] final ball."

Brazil midfielder Fred would appear to be the most likely to benefit from Eriksen's absence.

Although the 29-year-old has made only five Premier League starts this term, in total he has played in 17 top-flight games, with Ten Hag seeming to value his energy and tenacity in the second half when others might be tiring.

There is also the added convenience of him regularly playing alongside Casemiro with the Selecao.

"You mentioned already in your first sentence, he's playing together with Casemiro in the Brazilian squad, I would say that's not the worst squad in the world," Ten Hag said with a grin.

"They have so many choices what they can make but they often prefer to play them together. So, that tells something about the quality Fred has and what he can contribute to the team.

"He has done it several times with his performance for instance against Tottenham, for instance against Manchester City.

"When he's coming on [in the] last game [against Reading], he's scoring a goal straight away. He has a lot of qualities. I think they are a really good combination, Casemiro and Fred."

Christian Eriksen will be out of action for up to three months due to the ankle injury he suffered in Saturday's FA Cup win over Reading, Manchester United have confirmed.

Eriksen was on the receiving end of a heavy tackle from Andy Carroll in the second half, with the Reading forward surprisingly avoiding a yellow card.

Carroll was later sent off for another two forceful challenges.

Eriksen walked away from the incident to play on briefly, but he was soon replaced and later spotted leaving Old Trafford on crutches, with a protective boot supporting his left ankle.

United boss Erik ten Hag offered little insight after the match, but following examinations the club believe it is serious enough to potentially rule him out until May.

A statement read: "Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen is expected to be out of action for an extended period because of an ankle injury sustained in our Emirates FA Cup victory over Reading on Saturday.

"While investigations are continuing, initial assessments indicate that Eriksen is likely to be out until late April or early May."

The absence of Eriksen will be a major blow to United and Ten Hag, as the Danish midfielder has been a key component of the side since his arrival on a free transfer in pre-season.

Bruno Fernandes (2,603) is the only outfield player to spend more minutes on the pitch than Eriksen (2,274) across all competitions for United this season.

It is a similar story in terms of chances created, with Eriksen's 53 bettered by only Fernandes' 81, highlighting the Dane's creative importance, particularly from set-pieces.

Eriksen ranks highest in the squad for assists (nine), however, three more than Fernandes.

If the 31-year-old does not play again until the start of May, he will have missed at least 18 matches in all competitions.

That total will increase if United progress in the FA Cup, Europa League and EFL Cup – they are just 90 minutes away from the final of the latter after winning 3-0 away to Nottingham Forest in last week's semi-final first leg.

The return game at Old Trafford on Wednesday will be the first match Eriksen misses.

The absence of Eriksen further stretches United's midfield options after Donny van de Beek was ruled out for the season at the start of January.

It leaves Fernandes, Fred, Casemiro and Scott McTominay as their only recognised senior midfielders, potentially requiring 17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo – who has made two cup appearances but is yet to make his Premier League bow – to step up unless they delve into the transfer market before the window closes on Tuesday.

Erik ten Hag has no complaints with Manchester United's fixture schedule and insists his squad is deep enough to cope with challenging on multiple fronts in the second half of the season.

United beat Reading 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday to advance to the last 16 of the FA Cup, while Wednesday's 3-0 first-leg win over Nottingham Forest means they are all but assured of a place in the EFL Cup final.

The Red Devils are also still in Europa League contention, with a knockout play-off round tie against Barcelona on the horizon, and are fourth in the Premier League with 18 games to go.

Ten Hag's side potentially have nine matches to come in February, but the Dutchman considers that a positive as United bid to end a six-year wait for a trophy.

"I don't complain," he told reporters. "We know what the fixture schedule is; we have to deal with this.

"At clubs we have to set squads and squads are big enough to deal with it and I think players like to play.

"You can build and construct a good team when you play often and, in my perspective, when you play often the same you are getting the routines in."

Ten Hag surprised many by naming a strong starting line-up against Championship side Reading, with Harry Maguire coming into the side as the only change from the Forest match, which followed on from a 3-2 league loss at Arsenal.

"If you see everything in the perspective of the result, after a defeat we've bounced back," Ten Hag said. "I was happy with the performance at Arsenal, but we made mistakes.

"We have to work on those mistakes but now twice we have had good performances and two good results."

Casemiro's second-half double and a neat finish from Fred earned United victory over Reading, who had Andy Carroll sent off but pulled one back through Amadou Salif Mbengue.

United lost key midfielder Christian Eriksen to injury prior to the hour mark, but Ten Hag says it is too early to determine if the Denmark international is going to spend any time on the sidelines.

"It's always difficult to say in this moment so short after the game has finished," he said.

"But it's an ankle [problem]. We have to see what the diagnosis is, so it will be a minimum of 24 hours before we know that and then I can say more."

United are back in action on Wednesday with the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Forest, before returning to league action at home to Crystal Palace next weekend.

Ousmane Dembele is expected to miss a run of important games for Barcelona after suffering a strained thigh in their LaLiga win over Girona on Saturday.

The French winger, described by coach Xavi as Barcelona's "most important player in one-on-one situations", may struggle to be back in time for the Europa League play-off first leg against Manchester United, which takes place on February 16 at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have yet to give an official estimate of how long Dembele faces on the sidelines, but local reports have suggested it may be a three-week absence.

The injury took some of the shine off an eighth win in nine LaLiga games, in which Dembele's replacement off the bench, Pedri, scored the only goal.

Dembele made way after 26 minutes and underwent checks before visitors Barcelona embarked on their short journey home.

Barcelona announced on their website: "Tests this evening on Ousmane Dembele have revealed that he has strained the rectus femoris muscle in his left thigh. It means he is sidelined until he can recover from the injury."

Xavi said of Dembele's blow: "It's a shame because he is an important player."

Dembele has eight goals and seven assists for Barcelona this season, with those combined 15 goal involvements bettered only by Robert Lewandowski's 27 (22 goals, five assists) among Xavi's squad.

Barcelona have LaLiga games against Real Betis, Sevilla and Villarreal before the United game.

In 2004, Jose Mourinho set out his stall early at Chelsea.

"We have top players and, sorry if I'm arrogant, we have a top manager," said the Portuguese in his first press conference at the Premier League club, not long after he had led Porto to Champions League glory.

"Please don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one."

Devilishly handsome, with a wicked charm and natural bravado. Men wanted to be him. Women wanted to well... you get the gist. Not only did Mourinho talk the talk, but he walked the walk, winning the EFL Cup and the Premier League in his first season.

That was Chelsea's first domestic title in 50 years, and at the time they broke the record for the most points in a Premier League season (95) and fewest goals conceded (15).

Mourinho was, indeed, 'The Special One', and it's undoubtedly his most famous quote.

But there are plenty of others. To celebrate his 60th birthday, here are some classic Mourinho moments.

Announcing himself in England

With seconds left on the clock in a 2003-04 Champions League last-16 tie, Mourinho's Porto needed a goal at Old Trafford. "If we don't score we are out, if we score we are in, these are the details of the knock-out," Mourinho told UEFA in 2015, when reflecting on that night in March 2004.

Benni McCarthy saw a long-range free-kick parried out by Tim Howard, and Costinha was on hand to hammer home and silence the crowd. As his players charged towards one of the corners to celebrate, Mourinho leaped off the bench and cantered down the touchline, arms aloft. By full-time, he was already heading down the tunnel.

"We were in the dressing room, and it didn't look like it was the last 16, it was like it was the quarter-finals," Mourinho recalled. "Then someone knocks on the door, and it was Sir Alex [Ferguson] and Gary Neville, the captain, and they told us congratulations, you deserved it, enjoy it and good luck.

"It was something that in Portuguese culture we are not used to, but it's something I kept and during my career I did it a few times, when some opponent did something magnificent against my team. I kept something from big people, that can make others feel special.

Wenger wars

Mourinho enjoyed a fierce rivalry with Arsene Wenger during his first stint in the Premier League, and even went as far to suggest the Arsenal boss was something of a voyeur.

"There are some guys who have this big telescope to see what happens in other families. He must be one of them," Mourinho said.

Parking the bus

You would be forgiven for thinking the term "parking the bus" had been common footballing parlance in Britain for many, many years. However, it was Mourinho who first introduced it, after his Chelsea team were held to a goalless draw by Tottenham.

None too happy with Spurs' defensive approach, Mourinho said: "They brought the bus and left the bus in front of the goal as we say in my country." 

In October of last year, the phrase "park the bus" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Too many medals

It must be nice when you've won so much you can throw medals away. That's just what Mourinho did after he had guided Chelsea to a second straight league title in 2006.

The success marked Mourinho's fourth straight domestic title, and after being presented with his winners' medal, he threw that and his suit blazer into the stands. He was quickly presented with another medal; that, too, ended up in the crowd.

The knee slide

During Mourinho's second season at Real Madrid, a late Cristiano Ronaldo goal saw off Manchester City in the Champions League group stages, and Mourinho celebrated like only he can, jumping from the bench and sliding to his knees.

It was a match that also saw former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher reprimanded by police in the crowds. Rock 'N' Roll on and off the pitch.

Mourinho's time at Madrid unravelled the following campaign when he fell out with key players, including Ronaldo. "Maybe he thinks that he knows everything and that the coach cannot improve him anymore," Mourinho said of his compatriot.

I prefer not to speak...

Mourinho's second stint at Chelsea bore a league title in the 2014-15 season, but also proffered a quote that has lived on as an online meme and a viral clip ever since.

Chelsea lost 1-0 to Aston Villa in March 2014, with his team having Willian and Ramires sent off, and seeing a goal disallowed. Mourinho, too, was sent to the stands.

"I prefer not to speak," he told Sky Sports. "If I speak I am in trouble, big trouble, and I prefer not to be in big trouble. If I speak, I am accused of bringing the game into disrepute." 

Mourinho went on to speak about the referees for a few more minutes.

Gerrard's slip

Mourinho famously 'shushed' Liverpool fans in an encounter with the Reds during his first spell at Chelsea, and it was his team that dealt a severe blow to Liverpool's title hopes in the 2013-14 season.

In April 2014, Liverpool had just three games left and held a three-point lead over Manchester City. Yet a slip from club great Steven Gerrard allowed Demba Ba to pounce and put Chelsea ahead.

Chelsea netted a second late on, leading Mourinho to charge down the touchline and celebrate in front of the Kop. City went on to win the title.

Respect, respect, respect

Mourinho's time as Manchester United manager ended in typically volatile fashion, and the signs were there from the start of the 2018-19 season.

Following a 3-0 home defeat to Tottenham, Mourinho delivered a scathing response to his doubters as he stormed out of a press conference. 

"Just to finish, do you know what was the result – 3-0," Mourinho said while holding up three fingers. "It means 3-0. But it also means three Premierships, more Premierships alone than the other 19 managers together. Three for me, two for them. Respect, respect, respect."

The Dele warning

Mourinho's words of advice to Dele Alli were featured prominently in the Tottenham-focused All Or Nothing documentary series, aired in 2020.

"I am 56 now and yesterday I was 20. Time flies. One day I think you will regret it if you don't reach what you can reach," Mourinho, then at Spurs, told Alli.

"I am not expecting you to be the man of the match every game. I am not expecting you to score goals every game. I want just to tell you that you will regret it. You should demand more from yourself."

Less than 18 months after the documentary aired, Alli's Tottenham spell was over, moving to Everton on what was initially a free transfer at the age of 25. Six months after that, he was in Turkey with Besiktas, where he has been heavily criticised for his performances.

History maker

As Mourinho celebrates his 60th, one thing cannot be denied – he will go down as one of the best managers to ever grace the game.

He joined Roma in 2021 and does what he does best. He won.

Last year, Roma won the Europa Conference League, making Mourinho the first coach to complete the UEFA treble by winning the Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League, and Europa Conference League (in place of the defunct UEFA Cup Winners' Cup).

He was the fifth manager to reach the final of all three current major European competitions and the first to reach a major European final with four different clubs.

Mourinho's record speaks for itself. Of his 1,076 games as a coach, he has won 677 (62.9 per cent), with his teams scoring 2,082 goals. 

He is, after all, The Special One.

Manchester United's players must prove they deserve silverware as they continue to battle on multiple fronts under Erik ten Hag, according to midfielder Christian Eriksen.

The Red Devils defeated Burnley 2-0 on their return to action on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup, where third-tier Charlton Athletic await.

Ten Hag's side are also still in the Europa League, albeit with Barcelona up next in the knockout round play-offs, while their FA Cup campaign begins against Everton next month.

Having not won a trophy since their Europa League success in the 2016-17 campaign, Eriksen accepts United are not in a position to prioritise certain competitions.

"It's been a few years since winning a trophy the last time," Eriksen, who arrived at United as a free agent in July, told talkSPORT. 

"From where the club were to where we are now, the aim is to focus on every competition and see where we are in the end.

"It hasn't specifically been said that we have to win this or win that – all of the players just want to win as much as possible.

"But to get there we first need to prove that we deserve to be there. It's about every tournament. Like you saw against Burnley, even the [EFL Cup] is important for us."

Eriksen played the full 90 minutes against Burnley and opened the scoring at Old Trafford, before Marcus Rashford doubled United's lead in the second period.

That was United's first match in six weeks due to the World Cup break, which saw an early exit for Eriksen and his below-par Denmark side at Qatar 2022.

Fifth-placed United now face Nottingham Forest, Wolves and Bournemouth in the space of a week as the Premier League resumes, and Eriksen is glad to be back playing.

"I think it's nice to be back," he said. "It was important to get through to the next round in the cup and get the feeling of everyone being back and getting the win."

Arsenal have confirmed a new date for their Premier League game with Manchester City, with the pair now set to face off on February 15.

The two teams had been set to meet on October 19, in a crucial bout with both teams in the midst of an early campaign title battle.

But the game was forced off the schedule in order to make way for the Gunners' Europa League match with PSV Eindhoven, with the latter match having been postponed in the wake of the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Now the club has confirmed a new date, with Mikel Arteta's side hoping they remain at the top of the pile heading into their encounter.

"Our home Premier League clash with Manchester City has been rearranged for Wednesday, February 15," read a club statement.

"The game was previously arranged for October 19 but was postponed to allow us to fulfil our Europa League commitments."

Arsenal and City's title fight this year has painted an intriguing portrait for the two clubs, particularly with Arteta – assistant to Pep Guardiola before his return to north London –having raided his old team for new recruits.

In Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, the Gunners have acquired two players who have been among their key performers this term, helping them to mount challenges both at home and abroad in Europe.

Jordi Cruyff is relishing a “special” Europa League tie between Barcelona and Manchester United but thinks it is a shame they will not meet later in the competition.

Barca finished behind Bayern Munich and Inter in Champions League Group C, plunging them into the Europa League for a second consecutive season.

Monday's knockout round play-off draw handed the Catalan giants a heavyweight clash with United, which Xavi lamented as the "most difficult" assignment possible.

Blaugrana sporting director Cruyff, who represented both clubs during his playing days, would like such a mouthwatering tie to have taken place in the latter stages of the Europa League.

"I think it's a draw that both teams would have preferred to have further down the line, not so quick, but that's the beauty of football, you never know what's going to come," Cruyff said.

"It came now, and it's probably going to be a tough match for both, but also very special as these are two historic football clubs.

"Barcelona is a club where the pressure is always at the max, everything you start, you always need to win. That's the pressure that these sorts of clubs have, the same that United will have. 

"For us, it's a motivation and the fact that we get a team like this so quickly means that this competition isn't easy at all. It's difficult, but you know that we're motivated."

Barca have fond memories of their recent fixtures against United, having beaten the Red Devils in four successive meetings – including Champions League final triumphs in 2009 and 2011.

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