Skopje, Macedonia (AP) — Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho issued a challenge to his former club, saying he’d be happy to pursue Real Madrid striker Gareth Bale if the Spanish giants no longer considered him a key player.
Mourinho made the remarks on the eve of their match for the Super Cup in the Macedonian capital Skopje. The annual event is between the winners of the Champions League and Europa League.
Whether Bale starts on Tuesday at Philip II Arena would a clear sign of the club’s intentions, Mourhino said.
“If he plays tomorrow, that’s confirmation that he’s in the club’s plans,” he said. “But if he is not in those plans I’d wait on the other side, and I’d fight with other coaches who would also try to get him.”
Former United player Cristiano Ronaldo was in Madrid’s squad, following a break to prepare for a court inquiry into his taxes.
United midfielder Juan Mata conceded there was a quality gap between the teams.
“We are talking about the actual Champions League winners … they are the ones that everyone wants to beat. They’ve got a great team. They won the league in Spain as well,” Mata said.
“The (quality gap) is not very big. But we are talking about the best teams in the world: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich. But I also consider Manchester United to be there.”
As fans of both clubs arrived in the Balkan country, local authorities said more than 2,000 police officers would be on duty for the match with instructions to carry out extensive security checks as well as inspections for tickets sold on the black market.
Supporters also had to contend with a spike in hotel and private room rates, with some homeowners asking up to $1,750 for a one-night stay.
The temperature on match day is set to reach 38 degrees (100 F). Authorities have issued public health warnings, urging children and older people to avoid going outdoors at midday, while parts of the country were under a state of emergency due to large forest fires.