Wednesday 16 January 2019

Jose Mourinho says Manchester United can only compete with Man City if they get worse

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Matthews Childs/Action Images via Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Matthews Childs/Action Images via Reuters

Mark Critchley

Jose Mourinho believes it will be “impossible” for Manchester United to compete with Manchester City if the newly-crowned Premier League champions play at the same level next season.

City wrapped up the first domestic title of the Pep Guardiola era last weekend when United’s shock home defeat to West Bromwich Albion made their 16-point lead at the summit unassailable.

Mourinho’s only hope of silverware this season now is the FA Cup, and ahead of his side’s semi final against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Saturday, the United manager suggested that success beyond this season will rest on whether City regress.

When asked whether a more consistent United could challenge for the title next term, he said: “It depends on what the direct opponents do. One of the reasons related to your question - you don’t win a title, is it a failure or not - it depends on your opponents.

“I think was in champion in Spain with 100 points [with Real Madrid in 2012] and Barcelona had 91 points. Ninety-one points was a failure for Barcelona? I don't think it was.

“So in this season, in this Premier League, many clubs had positive seasons, like us, like Tottenham, like Liverpool. But it was impossible because City were really good and consistent and will reach a number of points that makes it impossible for you.

“If they do the same number of points [next season] it will be almost impossible,” he added. “If they get into the 90 something points, it is almost impossible.”

City look likely to amass more points in a single season than any other team in Premier League history, surpassing the record of 95 set by Mourinho’s 2004/05 Chelsea title winners.

​Mourinho has, therefore, scaled City’s before, but when this was put to him, he reiterated his belief that United will need City’s level of performance to slip if they are to catch them next term.

“We [United] had periods of winning matches and waiting for them to lose a couple of points. They never did it,” he said.

“Even when they were almost losing points they managed to win against Bournemouth in minute 145 and some other matches where they won in 90-something. They were really, really strong. That is why there is no question about who deserves to be champions.”

On Saturday’s semi-final, Mourinho dismissed suggestions that the choice of venue gives Tottenham an unfair advantage.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have played their home matches at Wembley this season while White Hart Lane is redeveloped as a new, 62,000-seater stadium.

“I played one cup final in Roma’s stadium against Roma and I won,” Mourinho said, recalling his Internazionale side’s Coppa Italia victory in 2010. “I play a cup final in my stadium and I lost [Madrid’s Copa del Rey defeat to Atletico in 2013].”

“So I think when you go to this big moments, with this big decisions, semi-finals, finals, I don't think it's an advantage at all. In some countries, even the cup semi-final is played with a draw and you play at home or away, not a neutral ground like in England and that's just football.

“I look at this Tottenham and Manchester United the same way I look Huddersfield and Manchester United or Manchester United and Brighton at Old Trafford. Sometimes is home, sometimes is away. This time is away but I don't see any advantage, for me it's the same as playing at Old Trafford.”

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