Sunday 18 March 2018

Mourinho: 'Giant on our chest' hurting us in Europe

Manchester United manager José Mourinho. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Manchester United manager José Mourinho. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Jeremy Wilson

Jose Mourinho has claimed that Manchester United must cope with a heavy "giant on our chest" when they return to the Champions League this season and that the first priority must simply be to avoid finishing bottom of their group.

United have qualified for Europe's elite club competition only by winning the Europa League after finishing sixth in the Premier League but, with his team well beaten despite the 2-1 scoreline against Real Madrid in Tuesday's Super Cup, Mourinho clearly wants to manage expectations.

He has also complained about some of the "really unfair" analysis of pounds

89 million midfielder Paul Pogba and is glad that he is no longer the most expensive player in football history following the signing of Neymar by Paris Saint-Germain.

"Manchester United are one of the top three football clubs in the world, no doubt about it, but the football club is one thing and the team's credentials going into a competition are another thing entirely," said Mourinho.

"We have a giant on our chest, which is really heavy, but we don't compare our potential to the biggest clubs in Europe right now. We'll take it step by step and be humble. The first step is to try to finish in the top three.

"If we manage that, we'll try to finish in the top two. Then, when you're in the Champions League last-16 draw, anything can happen."

Mourinho described facing a club like Madrid as like being "back at the theatre... where we want to be", but has suggested that it could take several years for United to get back to the very top in Europe. United reached the Champions League semi-finals or better seven times under Alex Ferguson, but have not been out of the group phase since 2014.

"Because Manchester United is a real giant, it doesn't matter if the club is somewhat far away from that [top] level for three, four, five or 10 years," said Mourinho. "The club will always be a giant.

"But our job is to try to bring the football club back to that stature. That's really difficult these days." Before, the giants were the powerful ones economically, and now there are small clubs in terms of prestige and history who are giants economically."

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