Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho sat down with the media at the AON Training Complex ahead of the Premier League clash with Hull City at the KC Stadium on Saturday evening. United also saw their group for the UEFA Europa League this season, in which they will face Fenerbahce, Feyenoord, and Zorya Luhansk – which is a tough draw for United this season, but one the players will be eager to face, despite being in Europe’s secondary competition. The Portuguese manager spoke about the draw in the Europa League, the closure of the summer transfer window on Wednesday, another player leaving on loan and this weekend’s opposition, Mike Phelan’s Hull City. Here are the main points from the press conference.
Jose Mourinho on Manchester United’s opposition in this season’s UEFA Europa League group:
“This Europa League is good because if I change the team and give a few players the chance to play against a team without expression, when everyone thinks we will win comfortably, even the players can start to think that although it is a gift, it’s not the gift they want.
“Fenerbahce is Champions League [standard], as is Feyenoord. It is a big match to play in Istanbul as it is in Rotterdam, so it is a good draw for our squad.”
Mourinho suggested that contrary to speculation, there will be no more ‘major’ moves in the transfer market this summer:
“I have 23 players in the squad and in principle there is nobody leaving and nobody is coming.
“Twenty-three players is more than enough and, if you have a problem or an opportunity, then I have a few young players in the Academy that I will be more than happy to give an acceleration in their process.
“I like Cameron Borthwick-Jackson very much but he will go to Wolverhampton to play [on loan] because I have Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind to play left-back. These are the kind of decisions every club makes.
“I think we are going to have a very quiet week, not surrounded by helicopters waiting for someone to arrive or leave – I am more than happy with the squad I have.”
Mourinho on Mike Phelan and how he hopes he is given the Hull City job permanently:
“I hope he gets the job but loses the match! It is not fair to make a decision on the manager because he loses or wins a match. I think the reality is that he was one of the most successful assistant managers in the country with invaluable experience. Then he was an important right arm to Bruce and now he has the job and has managed to organise the people, organise his team. I think he deserves the job.”
Mourinho on Manchester United’s chances of winning the Premier League this season and how top teams underperformed last season:
“I think that more points will be needed to win the competition because many of the top teams underperformed last year, which was amazing for the beauty of the competition. I think the top teams will go back to normality this year, but only one can win it.”
Jose Mourinho also confirmed that Andreas Pereira is close to securing a loan deal with La Liga side Granada, which is expected to last the duration of the 2016/17 season, which will be good for the player to hone his skills in a top European league, in a team that will give him the time to prove himself. Pereira is a decent talent, but he has somewhat stagnated over the past year. He failed to become a regular in the first team last season and was not allowed to head out on loan in January, and seldom played for United, apart from in the U21’s, after that. Louis van Gaal may have let the Belgium-born Brazilian down and he will now want to prove that he is ready to fight for a place in the squad. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and James Wilson also headed out on loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Derby County respectively.
Mourinho spoke about transfers and stated that aside from the speculation, there are no players leaving, or coming in, which suggests to me that the speculation about Jose Fonte and Fabinho was nothing more than the newspapers linking players to the club. Maybe there was some truth in it, but things did not take off like the manager thought it would, or he decided that the players he has are good enough for the coming season, and I tend to agree. It will be good to see Matteo Darmian given the chance to earn his place in the team, but he may be behind Antonio Valencia, who despite his form over the last few seasons being poor, has started well and looks to be close to the player he once was, but personally I do not think it will last. Having Darmian to compete with the Ecuadorian will keep both players on their toes and waiting for that chance to impress the manager – with a number of matches coming next month, the chance to impress could come around fast.
United have a much better squad than they had last season, the arrivals of Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba has massively improved that, given confidence to their teammates and the club’s supporters. The fear factor is returning and providing United make it three wins in three Premier League matches this weekend by beating Hull City, it will keep United flying high at the early stages of the season and put them in good stead to face Manchester City, the first big match of the season, after the international break.