Jose Mourinho does not intend to make any attacking reinforcements this summer as Alexis Sanchez’s acquisition means the Manchester United manager now feels he has the components to flourish.
The Portuguese made the surprising – albeit realistic – admission on Friday that table-topping Manchester City’s lead was insurmountable, with second spot the best his side could manage.
United are 13 points behind Pep Guardiola’s men with 12 matches remaining and Mourinho intends to use the rest of the campaign as a catalyst for an improved Premier League title charge next season.
The Old Trafford giants will no doubt be active in the transfer market to aid those hopes, but the Portuguese had pledged not to sign any attackers having made Alexis Sanchez his latest attacking recruit.
Put to him Sanchez played a lot of different positions in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Huddersfield, Mourinho responded: “Exactly that’s the point, that’s the objective. The objective is that now we have – apart from Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) and let’s forget about Zlatan for the moment – only one number nine, and by having one number nine, now we have more number nines (fitted into the side).
“We have Alexis, we have (Romelu) Lukaku, we have (Anthony) Martial, we have (Marcus) Rashford.
“Rashford can play on the left and the right, Alexis is exactly the same.
“All of them apart from Lukaku can play also from behind, they can also play as the second striker.
“That’s why I say that it’s bad for you because you like to have things to write and things to speculate, especially in the summer – but I don’t want attacking players so don’t speak about attacking players that are coming here because nobody is coming here.
“We have (Juan) Mata, Lukaku, Rashford, Martial, Alexis – I don’t want attacking players, so speculation in the summer you have to go to other areas.
“But attacking players I am really happy.
“We have to improve not in the quality of the players, we have to improve in the dynamic of the team and in the efficiency because even (Saturday) it is a game to score more goals than two.”
Ibrahimovic, Lukaku, Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – now at Arsenal – have all arrived to bolster United’s attack since Mourinho’s appointment in 2016.
Paul Pogba remains the biggest deal since the Portuguese succeeded Louis van Gaal, with the midfielder returning from Juventus for a then world-record fee. The France international has shone this season but a poor display in the midweek defeat at Tottenham was followed by dropping to the bench against Huddersfield.
“The reaction you saw: coming to the pitch with great desire to play,” Mourinho said of Pogba’s response.
“To be honest, at half-time he was already – because I can analyse body language – showing that he was ready.
“Ready with physio, he was already starting his warming up, so I think he showed the way he took it in a very professional way.”
Mourinho once again criticised the atmosphere at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Lukaku opened the scoring in the 55th minute before Sanchez marked his United home debut with his first goal for the club.
Asked afterwards about Sanchez, Mourinho said: “He played only three (matches since joining from Arsenal) and the first at Old Trafford, and I think Old Trafford, in spite of being a quiet stadium, the pitch is big, the grass is nice and obviously the players feel very comfortable playing here.”
When then asked to explain his comments, Mourinho replied: “It’s not Portsmouth. I remember Portsmouth - such a small stadium, the atmosphere was absolutely incredible. In here, the atmosphere is a bit quiet and there is not very (much enthusiasm). But the players like to play at home.”
The Portuguese opted to drop Paul Pogba from his starting XI three days on from the 2-0 away loss to Tottenham, bringing in Scott McTominay, with Phil Jones also left out.
Mourinho said of the decision: “I changed a few players and the intention was not to punish anyone. I made a few changes thinking about the characteristics of this game.
“Paul is a fantastic player - no doubt for me one of the most talented midfield players in the world. But to sit on the bench one day (Pogba came on in the 65th minute) is not the end of the world.”