Jose Mourinho has insisted that Manchester United will only continue to improve under his tutelage, labelling this season as a “very important” step towards further success in the future.
The Portuguese suffered a stilted start to life at Old Trafford, managing just two Premier League wins between September and December.
He has, however, managed to engender some notable improvements in recent times, reaching the Europa League semi-final and overseeing a 23 game unbeaten streak in the league.
And Mourinho, speaking ahead of the Manchester derby, was clearly optimistic for the future following an encouraging opening campaign.
“It doesn’t matter what happens in terms of titles we win or don’t win,” he said. “I always feel that the season is very important for me, the players and the club.”
“I would say this can be the first season of the next five or six or seven. It can be the first season of better years.
“And the reality is even in the first season of better years we won already and we have already the chance to do good things until the end of the season.
“If we manage to win the Europa League and in August to play the European Super Cup against the Champions League winner, it will be magnificent.”
Looking ahead to five years from now is a dangerous thing in football. We have reached a point in the modern game where longevity is perceived as an obsolete virtue; those in charge of big sides depend on freshness, quick fixes and constant evolution. Chelsea, with the enigmatic Antonio Conte and their ruthless owner Roman Abramovich, serve as a concrete example.
Where Mourinho – and indeed United as a club – will be five years from now is anybody’s guess. We could have been long since incinerated by the crossfire between the US and North Korea by that point.
What we can be sure of, however, is that Mourinho has laid down some hugely important groundwork this season. United are hard to beat, capable of dominating games and creating chances, and will only improve with further additions over the summer and continued integration under the Portuguese’s current system.
But his most important contribution this season lies not with the results picked up, but instead through the way he has set a particular standard at this club that, as Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial have discovered, if not adhered to, will lead to your demise. There is a clear benchmark at Old Trafford, and how well Mourinho’s men respond will indeed dictate how they move forward under his tutelage.