Jose Mourinho spoke at length on Friday about Manchester United’s lack of “football heritage” in comparison with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich following Tuesday’s Champions League exit.
Man United were dumped out in the last 16 in miserable fashion by Sevilla on Tuesday following a toothless, disjointed attacking display.
The defeat to the La Liga side means United have only reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League once since 2011 – and that was only because they beat Olympiakos.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Mourinho felt compelled to place United’s defeat during the week in a wider context.
“I say to the fans that the fans are the fans and have the right to their opinions and reactions but there is something that I used to call football heritage,” he said.
“I don’t know if, I try to translate from my Portuguese, which is almost perfect, to my English, which is far from perfect, football heritage.
“And what a manager inherits is something like the last time Manchester United won the Champions League which didn’t happen a lot of times, was in 2008. Since 2011, 2012, out in the group phase, the group was almost the same group we had this season, Benfica, Basel and Galati from Romania.
“Out in the group phase in 2013 out at Old Trafford in the last 16, I was on the other bench. In 2014, out in the Quarter Final.
“In 2015, no European football. In 2016, comes back to European football, out in the group phase, goes to Europa League and on the second knockout out of the Europa League. In 2017, play Europa League, win Europa League with me and goes back to CL.
“In 2018, win the group phase with 15 points out of a possible 18 and loses at home in the last 16. So in seven years with four different managers, once not qualify for Europe, twice out in the group phase and the best was the quarter final, this is football heritage and if you want to go to the PL, the last victory was 12-13 and in the four consecutive seasons United finish fourth fifth, sixth and seventh.
“So in the last four years the best was fourth. This is football heritage. Means that when you start the process you are here, you are there or you are there, is heritage.
“And if the fans that I will always respect, always respect, if the fans and many of them are the ones you speak with, many of them are the ones I speak with and I am very lucky but the ones who speak with you are v disappointed and the ones I speak with know what is football heritage, what is a process and when I arrive.
“When I arrived in Real Madrid, do you know how many players quarter final of the Champions League? Xabi Alonso with Liverpool, Casillas with Real Madrid and Ronaldo with Manchester United. All the others not even a quarter final, that’s football heritage.
“Those stats are real. I give you a couple more, in the last seven years the worst position of Manchester City in the Premier League was fourth, in the last seven years Manchester City was champions twice and if you want to say three times, they were second twice.
“That’s heritage. Do you know what is also heritage? Is that Otamendi, KDB, Fernandinho, Silva, Sterling, Aguero, they are investments from the past, not from the last two years, do you know how many of United players that left the club last season?
“See where they play, how they play, if they play. That’s football heritage and one day when I leave the next MU manager will find here Lukaku, Matic, of course De Gea from many years ago.
“They will find players with a diff mentality, quality, background, with a different status, know-how, and for some reason you go to the Champions League quarter final like today and there are four clubs that are always there, always there.
“Barcelona is always there in the past seven, eight years, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and then of course appear now and again, another club like my Inter, like some other clubs like Monaco last season, but the ones that are always there is for some reason and the good thing for me and the amazing feeling for me is that I am exactly on the same page as the owners, as Mr Woodward, Mr Arnold, we are on exactly the same page, we agree on everything, on the investments, that we have what we have, the investments that we are going to do will be season after season, we are exactly on the same page, so life is good. I have an amazing job to do.
“Yesterday I met a new person we have working in the club in a different area that came from another club and I ask why did you decide to come. The person told me I did a fantastic club in another job and at this club I have a huge job and I come for the challenge.
“Well done, my decision was based on the same thing, I could be in another country with the league in the pocket, I am here and I am going to be here and no way am I going to change my mentality. I don’t know if you know the expression but there is a quote that I like: ‘Every wall is a door’.”
Still with me? Good!
There is plenty to take in here. Everything he has said derives from solid fact, and no supporter would disagree with the notion that, following three aimless years that preceded his arrival, further foundations need to be laid down with an eye towards the future.
A glaring example of just how far away United truly are from the pinnacle came in Paris last week as Real Madrid, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, cruised past Paris Saint Germain on their way to yet another inevitable trophy. The home side weren’t too different to United, in a way: lots of big names, plenty of promise, yet strangers to each other on the pitch.
Madrid, however, oozed a sense of control. They did not necessarily even need the ball to show it. You could just feel it in the way they carried themselves. One team ran about in a kind of frenzy while the other just did the job.
This is a side that has been in these situations time and time again; this is a side that simply expects to win these encounters. That, right there, is football heritage. Pedigree. Miles in the bank. Zinedine Zidane’s men, along with Bayern Munich and Barcelona, have it in abundance.
And United, in comparison, do not have enough to win the Champions League at this moment in time. That much is obvious. But supporters are not angry about that; they are angry because their side had more than enough to beat Sevila and they went out with a whimper.
But Mourinho did not take to this press conference in the same way. The boss spoke passionately for over 12 minutes, showing a palpable sense of fight to be at the club, to win, to invest, to improve. He is not here for a cakewalk; he never was.
For all the lethargic misery on display on Tuesday, Mourinho is a man who still wants to fight – and you can only hope his players bring a similar attitude to the pitch on Saturday night.