Jose Mourinho issued a staunch defense of his Manchester United side ahead of their clash with Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Mourinho has been criticized for his project at United falling short of what Pep Guardiola is doing at runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, with a UEFA Champions League exit at the Round of 16 at the hands of Sevilla scrutinized heavily earlier this month.
In his pre-game programme notes, Mourinho had the following to say about United’s current situation as they sit in second place in the PL table, 16 points behind Manchester City, who they play next weekend in the Manchester Derby.
“The rest of this season has to be dedicated to keeping ourselves second place in the table. That is our reality. It is clear to everyone that this club is in transition,” Mourinho said. “In the future, we want to be the top team in the Premier League. That is not realistic this season, so, in the meantime we must do all we can to secure second place.”
Mourinho also went on to point out the three trophies United won last season, his first in charge, and their progression to the semifinals of the FA Cup and UCL knockout rounds this season and an improvement from their sixth-place PL finish last season.
He is right about all of that, but with their style of play and the players at his disposal, shouldn’t United be a better team to watch and have made a more serious run at the PL title this season?
It seems as though the Portuguese coach, ahead of Man City potentially sealing the PL title by beating United next weekend at the Etihad Stadium, wants everyone to know that he is the right man to lead United through this so-called period of transition.
Is it really a period of transition though?
You can argue that Mourinho has plenty of castoffs from previous managers who still remain at Old Trafford with the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling and others said to be ready to move on at the end of this season. Still, United have spent huge sums on Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof to try and rebuild the squad, with Alexis Sanchez also coming in as the highest-paid player in Premier League history.
It’s not like United’s board haven’t given Mourinho everything he has asked for since he arrived.
Mourinho knows the pressure will be on to deliver a more robust title charge, and go further in Europe, next season, otherwise those already blaming him for United’s lack of progress will grow louder in voice and larger in numbers.