SKOPJE: Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho laid down the gauntlet to UEFA Super Cup opponents Real Madrid by expressing his desire to bring Gareth Bale to Old Trafford.
Speaking to reporters in the Macedonian capital of Skopje on Monday, Mourinho said he would wait to see what Bale's role for Real in Tuesday's match would be before deciding whether the Welshman was worth pursuing.
"If he plays tomorrow it is because he is in the plans of the coach and the club, and it is in his own plans and ambitions to stay there. Then I won't even think about it," said Mourinho of the 28-year-old. "If he is not in the club's plans and it is true that a player like Bale is at the departure gate, I will try to be there waiting for him at the other side. But if he plays tomorrow it is the clearest signal that he is staying there."
Bale moved to the Spanish capital from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for a then world-record fee of 100.8 million euros.
However, injuries restricted his involvement during last season's run-in and he was only a substitute in Real's 4-1 Champions League final win over Juventus in Cardiff.
He has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu as Real are among the clubs fighting to sign Monaco forward Kylian Mbappe.
The French teenager has been linked with a 180 million-euro transfer although Manchester City are also keen and Paris Saint-Germain are believed to want him to play alongside their world record recruit Neymar.
However, Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane instead preferred to focus on Bale's improved physical condition when asked to respond to Mourinho's comments.
"The important thing is that the player is well. He has had continuity training with us. The end of last season was not easy for him. He was out for almost four months, but now he is fine," Zidane said.
"What matters to us is not what another coach says, but what he does for us tomorrow."
United have already splashed out close to 165 million euros in this transfer window on three players -- Swedish defender Victor Lindelof from Benfica, Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic from Chelsea and Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton.
Matic is the most recent arrival and Mourinho admitted he is unlikely to have more than a limited role in Tuesday's game at the Philip II Arena, which pitches last season's Europa League winners United against the reigning European champions.
Mourinho also confirmed that, while Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are on the sidelines, Tim Fosu-Mensah did not travel to the Balkans with the squad because he is set to seal a loan move away from the club.
Eric Bailly is still suspended in Europe following his red card in the Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo in May and fellow defender Phil Jones is banned too.
His suspension is the result of a run-in with an anti-doping official after United's Europa League final win over Ajax in Stockholm at the end of last season.
"I was expecting that the appeal would be negative," said Mourinho, who is preparing to come up against the club he coached for three years before leaving in 2013.
"The only thing I hope is that tomorrow, the team that wins, if some team wants to celebrate, a player wants to get his medal, enjoy with his teammates, I just expect that the doping committee sends somebody with him and doesn't close him in a room and forbid the guy to enjoy a special moment."
Jones was given a two-game suspension for insulting an official and was fined 5,000 euros after staying on the pitch to celebrate his team's win rather than going straight to a doping control.