Jose Mourinho has claimed he always felt that Manchester United were fighting for second place in their Champions League group behind the Juventus side that beat them 1-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday, as he lauded the Serie A champions for their ambition in what seemed another loaded comment about his own club’s perceived lack of ambition as well as an example of expectation management.
The Portuguese pointedly went on about how Juve are “not happy with what they have” and “want more”, “want the best players in the world”, and have “a big desire to have a big future”. When asked how far off Juventus’ level United are, Mourinho said “a bit”, before pointedly mentioning Manchester City and saying the only way you get there is investment.
The comments come after a summer when there was disagreement between the manager and the United hierarchy about signings, with Mourinho unhappy about the lack of investment – especially in centre-halves. He conspicuously praised Giorgio Chiellini and Leo Bonucci as capable of giving classes in “Harvard” about defending, and praised Juve’s ambition in signing the latter back from AC Milan.
“Like [after] the draw, we knew it would be a fight with Valencia for second position,” Mourinho said after what was a chastening 1-0 defeat to Juventus that could have been worse. He was also asked how far United are off that level.
“A bit, a bit far,” Mourinho said. “Juventus is champions for seven years in a row, two Champions League finals in four or five years and not happy with what they have, they want more. They had [Gonzalo] Higuain, [Mario] Mandzukic, [Paolo] Dybala, they want more, they want [Cristiano] Ronaldo
“They had [Andrea] Barzagli, Chiellini, they are not happy. They want more. They go for Bonucci. They want the best players in the world. Big club, but with a big desire to have a big future. They put everything to win there, I don’t say to win the Champions League, I say to win the treble.
“Because they always win in Italy.”
Following on from his lifting of three fingers to respond to Juve fan jibes during the game, Mourinho then made a reference to when he achieved the feat with their rivals Internazionale in 2010.
“But the treble until now is our treble, not their treble – yet,” Mourinho said. “But I think they are really close to it.”
When it was put to Mourinho how he gets to that level, he responded: “To go to the Juventus level? Barcelona? Real Madrid? How can you reach that level? Manchester City level?”
He was then asked whether it would just take “investment”, and said “yes” before talking of how United have further troubles in the market because the best players will go to these “top teams”.
“It’s not also easy. It’s not also easy, because many of the players they will go these top teams, so we work with what we have, we try to improve what we have.
“So the same way I say amazing Chiellini, amazing Bonucci, I have to say Chris [Smalling] and Victor [Lindelof] have a positive game. Chris, first time he plays a game of this dimension, Victor positive. Good experience for some of the boys.
“Quality is quality. Quality in football is everywhere. Chiellini, Bonucci so good to see. But again my repeat, so happy with what we did.
“Mr Bonucci and Mr Chiellini could go to Harvard to give listens on central defending. Fantastic, absolutely fantastic.”
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