Jose Mourinho acknowledges Manchester United are some way short of being the best team in the Premier League.
The 20-time English champions have endured mixed fortunes as Mourinho’s first season at the helm comes to an end.
A 3-2 win over Southampton at Wembley secured the EFL Cup and United are in the midst of a Europa League quarter-final tie against Anderlecht.
Winning the latter competition may represent their most plausible route back to the Champions League as they lie fifth in the Premier League – 18 points shy of Antonio Conte’s table toppers and with a tough run-in to come.
Asked how far away United were from the best in the country during an interview on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday programme, Mourinho left no doubt there is ample ground for United to gain, while once again implying Conte is the beneficiary of double standards when it comes to media criticism.
“Far… because the best team, in the Premier League, is the team with more points,” he said.
“I know you like to criticise me. When I was winning titles with Chelsea you were criticising the style of play. At the moment you don’t do it.
“Now to be the best counter-attacking team in the country is not to be criticised; it is an amazing thing.
“The best team at the end of the season is the one who is champions and we are far from it.
“This season Chelsea are a much better team than us.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 14, 2017
United’s weighty fixture list and fitness problems – playmaker Juan Mata was confirmed as a likely absentee for the rest of the season this week, while Mourinho is restricted at centre-back due to injuries to Phil Jones and Chris Smalling – mean their manager does not feel they can be as well prepared for this weekend’s match as a Chelsea side who have operated without European commitments all season.
“It’s a bit difficult, especially for some players,” he said. “I think for some of the boys it is not a big problem to play match after match with two days’ difference.
“For some others it is more difficult – their nature, their ages, their DNA. It is not so easy.
“We have important injuries and we do not have so many players to rotate. In some positions we have no choice.
“Of course [Chelsea] are much better prepared for the game than us.
“We don’t train. We recover from matches. We try to give the players the best conditions to recover but, honestly, on the pitch there are no conditions to work.
“We analyse matches, we analyse opponents but to work on the pitch, with dynamism and intensity, at this moment is impossible.”
A third defeat at the hands of Chelsea across all competitions this season would underline the gap between the two, but Mourinho feels it is open to interpretation whether his first year in the Old Trafford dugout has been a success.
“It depends on the way you analyse it. You could say my record at home is not a good one, you could also say that my record away from home is very good,” he added.
“You can say that I won a trophy in the first season but you can forget it too soon – I don’t know what is a good season for you and for me.
“For me a good season is to be ready for every match and fight for every match for the best result and to defend Man United prestige.
“We are not fighting for the title, we are just fighting to finish top four. It is an important thing but the important thing for this club is to fight for titles and the only title we can win is the Europa League.”
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