Jose Mourinho: Manchester United cannot catch negative Chelsea in title race
Jose Mourinho believes it will be hard for Manchester United to make up ground on Chelsea in the title race because his former club adopt an overtly defensive approach he refuses to employ at Old Trafford.
Antonio Conte’s side are six points clear at the top of the Premier League table, after winning their past 11 matches, and lead United, in sixth, by 13 points.
Four of Chelsea’s past six league wins have come courtesy of a 1-0 scoreline while they have kept nine clean sheets and conceded just two goals since losing 3-0 to Arsenal on September 24.
Mourinho suggested Chelsea were unconcerned about how their style of play is perceived, although many Blues fans will consider his thinly-veiled dig ironic given that the Portuguese had a reputation for being pragmatic during his two spells in charge at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea won 11 of their 38 Premier League games by a 1-0 scoreline during Mourinho's first title-winning season in 2004/05.
“You have to be honest and say that is very difficult,” the United manager said, when asked if his side could still win the title. “It’s not just the difference in points, it’s also the Chelsea philosophy of playing.
“They score one goal and they win. They defend a lot. They defend well. They are winning and, in the last 20 minutes, they bring defenders in.
“They don’t care what people say, what people think. They just want to win. And, because of that, I don’t see them losing many points.”
Chelsea, who beat United 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in October, have scored 11 goals more than United in the league this term.
Mourinho, though, has been keen to stress the emphasis he has placed on honouring United’s traditions by playing attacking football at Old Trafford and is confident next year will signal an improvement for the club, despite acknowledging the threat of missing out on Champions League qualification.
“2017 will be better than 2016,” said Mourinho, whose side face Sunderland at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. “I think we are really together. There is a sense of unity between us and the fans. I’m loving a lot that feeling.
“For me to be happy, it’s an accumulation of factors. For me to be happy is the way we end the season playing, the evolution of the team, the empathy with the supporters, the results in many different competitions we are playing.
“So let’s see where we finish, I don’t want to say fourth, because I think we can do better than fourth.
“But we have the risk of not finishing fourth because the competition is so hard and the top teams have the same ambitions as we have. So I don’t want to say fourth or third or fifth.”
Mourinho said he had not compromised his principles, even when results were disappointing before a recent run of three successive wins.
“Obviously we need to work and work, improve and improve, but footballing ideas, principles of play, the way we want to defend and attack, is clear,” he said.
“It’s something we believe, and is something the players are very happy with, and it’s something we didn’t change because the results were not good.
“And that makes the concept even stronger, because when you win matches the results convince you that what you are doing is right, and when you are not winning you must have a deep feeling to be convinced that you are going in the right direction.
“Many results that we conceded were bad results, even with that unbeaten run, we conceded draws at home, Burnley, Arsenal, West Ham. But the bad results didn't make us change our idea and our direction. So we are fine.
“I cannot say this season is to build a team, this season is to play well, this season doesn't matter if you finish fourth or seventh. Seventh is one thing and fourth is another thing, and we still have objectives
“There is no point in saying [to the fans]: 'Believe in us, give us time, we are going to do it'. I think they believe in us, I think they are together with the team, I never had bad matches or bad results at home and felt the people so supportive as they have.”