Jose Mourinho has insisted that Tuesday night’s Champions League clash with Sevilla significantly outweighs last weekend’s win over Liverpool in terms of importance.
Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Jurgen Klopp’s side gave them a five point cushion in second place and further bolstered the feel-good factor at Old Trafford following a difficult February.
But it will mean absolutely nothing if they fail to progress to the quarter-final – the business stage of the competition whereby Man United will be judged against the very best in Europe.
And Mourinho, speaking at a press conference ahead of the meeting with Vincenzo Montella’s side, noted that Tuesday night – as well as Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final with Brighton and Hove Albion – will define the rest of United’s season.
“Tomorrow is more important than Saturday [against Liverpool] because Saturday was a match for points that we still have 24 more points to discuss, 24 more points to try to finish in the top four, to try to finish third, to try to finish second if possible,” he said.
“But tomorrow and Saturday [against Brighton] are the matches where, in the end, you go to the next draw or you don’t go to the next draw. So, of course, knockout becomes more important than league matches.”
This is, perhaps unfortunately, not an overstatement from the boss. United have reached a crossroads moment in their season: win the next two games and April and May, the best months of the season, become seriously competitive.
A trip to Wembley and indeed to perhaps Real Madrid, or Juventus, or even Anfield – jesus, just imagine that – will be on the cards. The possibilities are tantalising, but at the moment that is all they are. United really are playing for the sake of their season at Old Trafford tonight.