Jose Mourinho says he has no regrets about Manchester United’s failure to finish in the Premier League top four, insisting that trophies are more important to the club.
United must win the Europa League final against Ajax in order to play in the Champions League next season after Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham in the last-ever match at White Hart Lane left them seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City with two matches remaining.
Mourinho left Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the bench following Thursday’s Europa League semifinal second leg against Celta Vigo at Old Trafford, and United were 2-0 down to goals from Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane inside 48 minutes.
Wayne Rooney halved the deficit with the last goal at the Lane and Mourinho insisted afterwards that he did not prioritise the competition, again criticised United’s fixture schedule and said a top-four finish was less important to his team than silverware.
“I’m not upset, because we had to make that decision. When people say ‘we gambled,’ we didn’t gamble, we didn’t choose Europa League. We had to do it. Because if I have [injured players] Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, Tim Fosu-Mensah, if I have these guys [available], I can rotate, I can go for every match,” Mourinho told a postmatch news conference.
“When I have 14, 15 players I can’t do it. It’s as simple as that. It’s not possible to do it every three days with Europa League that is the competition with two more matches, with two matches in hand that we had to play later, it’s impossible. We never had one occasion to rest, not even to train properly. So it was not a choice. We were pushed for that situation.”
“And even the draw, if it is a draw, I never understood well if it is a draw, or if they put the dates into the computer, I never understood that very well,” Mourinho said of United’s recent fixture list.
“But to finish the season with four matches away from home — Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City. If you were fighting for the title, what a way to fight for the title. If you want to try to get some results and protect players, which matches to protect players? I cannot go to Man City or to Arsenal and put five kids at the same time all together. I cannot lose 5-0 or 6-0. So it’s difficult, difficult, but we know what we are doing.
“I don’t know other clubs, I don’t know the way they think, I don’t know what is important for them. We, Manchester United, for us it’s more important to win titles than to finish 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 for us.
“Because we don’t fight, 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 to fight for a title.”
Mourinho told Sky Sports that Tottenham had more to play for in their final game at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
“I make that a team [Tottenham] playing at the maximum of the potential with the players having motivation to win the last match at home.” Mourinho said.
“And another team [United] trying to find some balance even with players, some of them not playing in their best positions.
“I’m fine with what we had in terms of individual performances, the two goals were bad goals that we conceded, but the team was not used to each other.”
United captain Rooney agreed with Mourinho in that Tottenham had more motivation going into the game.
“To be honest it’s another game against Tottenham. It was special for their players and fans but for us it was another game at White Hart Lane,” he said. “We wanted to win the game, we went out and tried to win the game. Tottenham played well but we could have done better.”