Jose Mourinho says Manchester United can't win the title but can still finish fourth – despite 11-point gap to Chelsea

'Best we can get is fourth. Now we look to the fifth and then later the fourth," Mourinho said after defeat at Liverpool

Sunday 16 December 2018 19:11
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Manchester United: A look back at 2018

Jose Mourinho believes his Manchester United team can still finish in the top four of the Premier League, despite defeat to Liverpool leaving them 11 points off the place, and admitting they have “a problem related to physicality”.

The Portuguese went out of his way to praise the physical conditioning of Jurgen Klopp’s side after a 3-1 defeat at Anfield - particularly praising the “absolutely incredible” Andy Robertson - and comparing them to his Porto team of the past. He said he can’t get his own side to such a level because of all the injuries they suffer.

As he spoke about the problems of the present, Mourinho also went on a long monologue about the qualities of his past sides as if trying to remind everyone what he was capable of. When he was asked why he can’t get United up to that level, he implied wider problems by saying “a football team is more than a squad” as he again engaged in a bit of double-speak and claimed he was happy with his current players.

He also maintained they could qualify for the Champions League.

“Yes, I think so. We played the way [I want], I know that we lost some other matches but we played Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City away, probably the three best teams apart from Tottenham Hotspur but we play away and I think we have more possibility to do more points in the second half of the season than the first.”

He argued his side struggled against the intensity of Liverpool.

“They are fast intense, aggressive, physical, they are objective, they play 200mph with the ball and without the ball, I am still tired just to look at Robertson, he makes 100 metre sprint per minute, absolutely incredible, and these are qualities.

“So when the game was really intense in the first 20 or 25 minutes, it was difficult for us to cope with it, in the second-half when the game slowed down, when we compacted better, when we had more time to have the ball and to play, we were in a good position in the game with the 1-1 and 20 or 25 minutes to go… itwas in exactly that moment where we were complete under control we lose the game, two shots that David [De Gea] easily saves but because of the rebounds they were goals. So I would say Liverpool deserve the victory but is hard for my players to work hard like they did and to lose exactly in the moment where we didn't believe we would lose. If you told me in the first 20 minutes we are going to lose, I would say, Yes, it looks so.' But in the moment we lost the game was the moment we didn't believe we would lose.

“We have lots of probs related to physicality, we have lots of players that I could consider injury problems, because some of our players are always injured and is not with me, was before me. If you look to the stats with Mr Van Gaal and David [Moyes], we had players that are permanently, injured, when you are perm injured, physicality is difficult to get. Then there are qualities, you cannot improve.

“I gave you an example, Robertson, [Sadio] Mane, [Mohamed] Salah, [Gini] Wijnaldum, [Naby] Keita, Fabinho, they are physical players, on top of that they are good technically. I have lots of good players tech but we do not have that intensity or physicality.

“You can compare my Porto team with Liverpool. The qualities of the players are there, it was my best team in defensive transition, we bite like mad dogs. In Real Madrid I had my best team in direct counter, young [Karim] Benzema, young [Crstiano] Ronaldo we killed everybody in defensive transition and in Internazionale the best low block. [Marco] Materazzi, [Martin] Samuel Lucio, in a low block you can be five hours and don't concede a goal, so players make teams play in a certain way.”

Asked why he can’t do any of this with United, Mourinho said:

“I don't think a football team is just a squad, is much more and I repeat I am really really happy with the players I had on the pitch, I am more than happy and because I am more than happy I assume responsibility of the defeat and want to be hidden behind me, they gave absolutely everything. Eric Bailly knows he plays one minute before the game, Victor Lindelof, Diego Dalot trained one day to play… I could go on and on and on, I am happy with the players' commitment and I feel really sorry for them, their effort don't deserve to lose the game we did, if we concede in first 20 mins, to lose the way we did in the moment we did, I feel sorry for the boys.”

When asked did he regret not starting Pogba, Mourinho just said “no”, and that he was happy with the midfield he selected.

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