Jose Mourinho has vowed not to over-rotate his lineup and risk throwing away Manchester United’s FA Cup chances.
Fresh from comprehensively winning the first leg of their Europa League round-of-32 clash with St Etienne, United turn their attention to the only major trophy they have won since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Mourinho’s side travel to Ewood Park looking to overcome Championship side Blackburn and reach the quarterfinals, although it would be tempting to rest players given a return leg in France and EFL Cup final against Southampton follows this week.
The United manager will make changes on Sunday, but promised to respect the FA Cup, having been burned in the fifth round against Newcastle 12 years ago.
With John Terry suspended, Mourinho chose to leave out Petr Cech, Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele, among others, with the Champions League trip to Barcelona in mind — and subsequently lost 1-0 at St James’ Park.
“Yes, I threw it away,” the United manager said. “In the same week was Champions League against Barcelona and was the cup final against Liverpool and in the middle of it we had FA Cup against Newcastle and I threw it away, I gambled too much.
“I focused too much on Barcelona and Liverpool. It was good because we beat Barcelona and won the final against Liverpool. So it was good. But the feeling that I threw it away was not good.
“So I don’t throw it away. If I lose, I lose because the opponent was better or because we didn’t play well but I am not going to throw it away.
“We go to Blackburn with that respect. We played already Reading and Wigan from the Championship so the level is not new for us. Plus, it’s one thing at Old Trafford but another thing when you go away.
“So I go serious. Am I going to repeat this team [against St Etienne]? No. I’m going to change a few players obviously.
“But I’m going with a good team and I respect the competition a lot. Man United demands that you go serious to every game.”
Mourinho believes lower-league teams are improving all the time and underlined the importance of being “alert because it’s never easy.”
“I don’t know,” he said when asked why the FA Cup was not so important to some managers. “Maybe we don’t have as many English managers with that culture as we should.
“Maybe we foreign managers, not everybody studies and understands the culture of this country. In my case, I had immediately in my first time, that situation with the match at Newcastle. So for me it was a lesson.
“With Chelsea, I lost against a League One or League Two team, but I never threw it away. We lost because we lost. So I try always to go serious. I like Wembley, I like the FA Cup, so I have to try to get the second one.”
The FA Cup holders will assess Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of the match after missing the St Etienne clash through illness.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick were also absent on Thursday due to minor muscular issues.
“I want them to be fit, I want them to be ready,” Mourinho said. “Even on Thursday, if they were, they would be involved.
“I am not sure they will be ready because the game is in two days but let’s see.”