Mourinho laments lack of winners at United as he admits title is out of reach
Old Trafford boss claims his squad needs more experience of playing high-pressure games
Jose Mourinho has finally conceded that the Premier League title is beyond Manchester United this season - not the most startling confession, perhaps, but one which was followed by the Old Trafford manager expressing concern about the lack of "winners" in his squad.
In a fascinating interview ahead of this afternoon's visit to defending champions Leicester, Mourinho analysed his club's trophy-winning potential, making a startling admission when asked if he felt there were enough players with the experience of consistently winning on the big stage.
"No," he said. "That is how you win things, step by step, or [by] not winning but almost winning or being competitive, learning how to feel the pressure of you have a final to play, a final to win, you have semi-finals, you are in the league, your opponent loses 24 hours later, you need to win to recover these points, to feel this pressure, to cope, how to live with this. It is something that of course we don't have enough.
"And the ones with a history of success where that belongs to their natural habitat - [Wayne] Rooney, [Michael] Carrick, who else? Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], but [not] in our club. Antonio Valencia and not much more."
Mourinho's point is slightly disingenuous. After all, club captain Rooney alone has won five league titles - all with United - while Ibrahimovic has won the league in 13 of his past 15 seasons with six different elite clubs across four countries.
But Mourinho points out that the Premier League differs hugely in one key area, which goes some way to explaining why Mourinho, and David Moyes and Louis van Gaal before him, have struggled to continue the success enjoyed by Alex Ferguson.
"That is the new football," said Mourinho. "When previously you were speaking about Sir Alex's time, this is not Germany. In Germany, Bayern Munich starts winning the league in the summer. They go to Borussia [Dortmund] every year and buy their best player. One day they go there and [Robert] Lewandowski. The next year, they go there, Mario Götze. The next year they go there, [Mats] Hummels. So they win the league in the summer.
"Do you think I can go to Tottenham and bring two Tottenham players to kill Tottenham? I can't. I cannot go to Arsenal and bring the two best Arsenal players. I cannot go to Chelsea and bring two of the players that I love very very much. That time is over, the situation of starting being champion by attacking your direct opponents in this country is over. If you get a player from these clubs, you get a player that club doesn't want to keep.
"We are growing up this season in relation to last season. Do you know what is the problem? The problem is the others are also getting stronger because previously when one of the big clubs is getting stronger, one of the other big clubs is getting weaker. In this moment, we get stronger but the others, they get stronger and get stronger and get stronger."
Mourinho has one advantage over his five peers above him in the league table this morning, as the only manager in the country still active in four competitions. The league is beyond him but, given his pedigree, it would take a bold man to bet against Mourinho ending his first season with United by winning one of the three cups in which he is involved.
"We have to try despite everything, we have to try," he said. "We cannot win the Premier League, that is very obvious. I don't know how many points or matches Chelsea have to lose or victories we have to make in a row, but in another three competitions we can win. We are there.
"We have a 50 per cent chance of winning the League Cup, we won the Community Shield and we are in the last 16 [of the FA Cup] and last 32 of the Europa League. We have to fight for these competitions, yes."