Jose Mourinho insists he has worked harder this season than at any other stage of his career, despite Manchester United looking destined to finish outside of the Premier League’s top four positions.
But while Mourinho says he understands why people might claim a failure to win the competition might taint the whole campaign, he insists that he has never put in so much effort to try to succeed than he has this season.
“I think, by you media, you have the right to say it [would be a failure] and I think it makes sense, but I don’t feel like that,” Mourinho told a pre-match press conference. “I don’t want the players to feel like that. I don’t think the board feels like that because we work very hard. I probably worked harder than ever this season.
“So I don't think that way, but if I was on your side, in your chair… yeah [it’s fair]. We won the EFL Cup, the Community Shield, and until the injuries arrived we fought for the Premier League top four. We had a fantastic record of 25 matches unbeaten, we did things that nobody did at this club in the first season, like win a trophy, having a record that at Manchester United is unbeatable, like reaching a European final.
“You are always looking for this kind of capital letters, big headlines. I accept that you say that.”
When asked whether the United players had needed more help from him than had been the case at his previous clubs, Mourinho added: “The players and the club. Sometimes, you get into big clubs in difficult moments and the work is harder than when you get to smaller clubs in a moment of positive explosion.
“It has been a very hard season. Some invisible work, to your eyes, but when I analyse my work, I know better than anyone what I had to do. But I accept at your eyes, it’s the football results that make that decision.”
With United now looking forward to their big date in Stockholm, Mourinho says he will not shy away from rotating his squad some more in United’s remaining three league matches. That spell starts with Sunday’s trip to face Tottenham in the final ever game at White Hart Lane.
“I have to give some minutes to everyone because we have only 15 players, we don’t have more,” he said. “So I have to play them but I have to play them mixed, in periods. I don't have another solution.
“In the Premier League, we can only finish fifth or sixth, I think. But we can win a trophy and by winning that trophy we can play Champions League next season, so that’s the game.
“But, like we did against Arsenal, we didn’t throw the match away, we tried to win, we gave a difficult match to our opponent, we had our chances to get a different result and that’s what we are going to do.
“We don’t want to say matches are not important, but we have one that is more important than the others.”