Jose Mourinho has insisted winning the Europa League is a much greater achievement than finishing in the top four, four years after insisting he did not “want my players to feel the Europa League is our competition.”
Manchester United’s defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Sunday meant that they can now mathematically not make the top four, leaving the Europa League as the only way they can qualify for the Champions League.
Against both Spurs and Arsenal the week before, Mourinho has rested the majority of his first-choice stars to save them for their Europa League run – something he insisted he would never do when months after Rafael Benitez guided Chelsea to Europa League glory.
Tottenham vs Manchester United player ratings
Tottenham vs Manchester United player ratings
1/22 Hugo Lloris – 6 out of 10
The keeper made a handful of crucial saves today to keep his side in the lead. He commanded his box well and was quick off the line.
2/22 Kieran Trippier – 4 out of 10
The defender struggled to keep up with the pace and ability of Martial. Was on the backfoot for much of the game.
3/22 Toby Alderweireld – 6 out of 10
He held the line well at the back and made a number of crucial interceptions and blocks.
4/22 Jan Vertonghen – 6 out of 10
It was a disciplined display at the back, but at times he was dragged out of position in the hunt for possession.
5/22 Ben Davies – 7 out of 10
Davies assisted Wanyama’s goal in sublime style and his deliveries into the area throughout were problematic for United.
6/22 Eric Dier – 6 out of 10
Dier used possession well and continued to provide service for the forwards throughout.
7/22 Victor Wanyama – 7 out of 10
He scored the opener, worked relentlessly and his passing was faultless.
8/22 Christian Eriksen – 8 out of 10
As always with Eriksen, his deliveries were remarkable. His ability to pick a player out within a group is simply sublime.
9/22 Dele Alli – 8 out of 10
His movement off the ball upset United and caused chaos within their defence. He tested De Gea on several occasions – top display.
10/22 Son Heung-min – 6 out of 10
An energetic display, but it would have been encouraging to see him shoot more.
11/22 Harry Kane – 7 out of 10
He scored Tottenham’s second which capped off a terrific display from Spurs’ main man.
12/22 David De Gea – 7 out of 10
De Gea made several saves to prevent Tottenham extending their lead. Very dominant goalkeeping from the 26-year-old.
13/22 Eric Bailly – 7 out of 10
Held his position well at the back and was excellent in the air. A disciplined display from the 23-year-old.
14/22 Chris Smalling – 5 out of 10
He struggled to keep up with the movement of the Spurs forwards and, as a result, he was repeatedly dragged out of position.
15/22 Phil Jones – 6 out of 10
Jones held the line at the back reasonably well and controlled the United defence. A textbook display.
16/22 Daley Blind – 5 out of 10
Blind lunged into challenges, which left the United defence vulnerable at times.
17/22 Michael Carrick – 6 out of 10
As always, his vision when in possession was impressive. He was pumping balls up to the forwards relentlessly.
18/22 Axel Tuanzebe – 7 out of 10
The youngster held his own out there against a quality strike force. Made a number of vital tackles and interceptions.
19/22 Jesse Lingard – 5 out of 10
Lingard looked lost at times and was drifting into the background of the game. Needs to do more when he is in possession.
20/22 Juan Mata – 6 out of 10
He was impressive in possession, but it would have been encouraging to see him with more of the ball.
21/22 Wayne Rooney – 5 out of 10
He scored United’s only goal, which went some way to redeeming his poor defensive play.
22/22 Anthony Martial – 7 out of 10
His energy and pace provided a positive prospect for United. He troubled the Spurs defence with his trickery and footwork.
Speaking in 2013, Mourinho, who had just succeed Benitez as Blues boss, told the BBC: “I don’t want to win the Europa League. It would be a big disappointment for me.
“I don’t want my players to feel the Europa League is our competition.”
However, after the defeat to Tottenham on Sunday, Mourinho completely contradicted these comments, insisting that the other clubs finishing in the top four would prefer to be in Manchester United’s position of challenging for a trophy.
“I don’t know the way the other clubs think; I don’t know what is important for them,” Mourinho said. “At Manchester United, for us it’s more important to win titles than to finish in the top four.
“So if we can win a third title, or as you like to say, a second title, if we can do that it would be magnificent.
“We know it’s a big objective, we know that if we lose the final we don’t play Champions League, we know that. But we fight for titles and probably other clubs finishing in the top four, probably they would like to be in our position, to try and fight for a title.”Reuse content