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Monday 22 July 2019

Mourinho admits defeat in title race

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: PA
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: PA

Ian Whittell

Jose Mourinho conceded defeat in the Premier League title race yesterday, admitting his Manchester United team are playing to be "first of the last" as they languish 15 points behind Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

There are still 13 games remaining, but Mourinho has taken the unusual step of admitting that his club's cross-town rivals cannot be caught, instead revealing he is already plotting to correct that state of affairs next season.

"The game is important for us because we need points to be the first of the last," Mourinho said ahead of today's visit of Huddersfield. "We have to try to finish second. We are in these positions all season. We were first for a few weeks and then we were always second, I don't remember us being fourth, fifth or sixth.

"We have been there since the beginning of the season, better than last season in every aspect - points, position, number of goals scored, conceded, better in everything. So we have to try to stay there and it is not easy because there are very good teams. Chelsea (had a) fantastic (transfer) market, Liverpool are a great team, Arsenal improved a lot in the market, Tottenham is a fantastic team and they are five points behind us.

"So we are doing quite well, with some negative moments, Wednesday was one. It is very important to do better than last season and try to win something, and if not do better."

Mourinho will instead take a leaf out of the book of one of his predecessors, Alex Ferguson, in attempting to close the gap to City.

"I always remember when Sir Alex said in 2005-06, when we won the second title with Chelsea, 'We need to improve a lot because they have raised the bar to such a level'. They won two titles in a row," said Mourinho.

"The second title was easier than the first and then the biggest manager in the Premier League said Man United needed to improve a lot. That was the click for the improvement of the team.

"In '06-07 United won the title back. It has to be like that. That is why every match until the end of the season is an important match."

Indeed, United started the current campaign keeping pace with their neighbours until suffering their first defeat against Huddersfield in late October.

Since then, City have proved largely unstoppable and have United's own record title-winning margin, 18 points in 2000, well within their sights.

Meanwhile, Mourinho hopes to produce a performance befitting the Busby Babes as they prepare to pay their respects to the victims of the Munich air disaster.

Tuesday marks the 60th anniversary of the plane crash that killed 23 people, including eight players, as Matt Busby's side returned from a European Cup tie at Red Star Belgrade. Mourinho wore a Munich pin badge and spoke eloquently about the disaster.

"I was telling before MUTV that this is something that is part of my life, or part of my football culture, before I become Manchester United manager," the Portuguese said.

"And why? Because it was such a tragedy that stayed in these last 60 years. So as Manchester United manager obviously it means much more but I think it belongs to every sportsman as one of the biggest tragedies.

"At the same time, it is a crucial point also in Manchester United's history - the reaction, the strength, the union after that situation.

"And I think tomorrow is an amazing day to show the respect, to show the passion for the club, the respect for them, the respect for their families and I think it is a day to play well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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