MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho insisted Friday that Manchester United will be contenders for the Premier League title in his first season in charge at Old Trafford, and criticised some of his rival managers for not being brave enough to make the same claim.
United have not won the league title since Alex Ferguson’s last season at the club in 2013, with David Moyes and Louis van Gaal both failing to mount a challenge during their spells as managers.
Finishing fifth in the Premier League last season signalled the end of Van Gaal’s two-year stay, but Mourinho clearly expects to do far better and has not been frightened to make his intentions clear.
Mourinho – who won the title three times in his two spells as manager of Chelsea – said: “We feel that we are candidates to win the title.
“We know that not one or two or three more than that have the same ambitions. We cannot speak differently. We want to fight for the title.
“If at the end of the season we are not champions because someone is better than us then great, that’s football.
“But at Manchester United Football Club you cannot say differently, we have to fight for the title.
“Many more think the same way as us but they are afraid to say it. They prefer to play a defensive game in words.
“They prefer to say or to hide or to play defensively with the words, that’s not our way. I don’t think that’s Manchester United. I think Manchester United has to say we want to win the title.
“We have all the respect for the others and maybe we don’t win, maybe we arrive end of season and are happy to finish top four. It depends on how the season goes.
“But in this moment when I speak to you, I speak to my players too, and I cannot speak differently.”
– Key suspensions –
United will begin their title challenge at Bournemouth on Sunday without world-record signing Paul Pogba, who must serve a one-match ban for collecting two yellow cards playing for Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia.
Pogba, who cost United £89m ($115.3m) to bring back to Old Trafford for a second spell, may not have been match-fit, having only completed his protracted transfer last Monday, although Mourinho admitted he was not aware of the ban until two days ago.
Mourinho added: “I don’t speak about suspended or injured players. I speak about the ones that are ready to play.
“I forget about Paul for a few days and on Tuesday he will be ready to (prepare) to play versus Southampton (next Friday).
“I knew this situation with the yellow cards but I didn’t know at that time if the accumulation of yellow cards would bring a player to suspension.”
Defender Chris Smalling also misses United’s opening game through suspension after being sent off in last season’s FA Cup final.
But Mourinho has an otherwise fit squad to select from. And the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan coach said the number of wide players he has at his disposal was behind his decision to loan Adnan Januzaj to Sunderland, and not a falling out with the player.
“He fits in my plans, that’s why he’s on loan and that why he’s on loan at a Premier League club,” said Mourinho.
“If he doesn’t fit in my plans we don’t care about which club and where he’s going. We just send him to Borussia Dortmund where he didn’t play one match.”