José Mourinho says Manchester United may struggle to close gap on City

Jacob Steinberg on 20 April 2018

José Mourinho has admitted that Manchester United will struggle to catch Manchester City if the new Premier League champions maintain their high standards next season.

United’s manager struck a pessimistic tone when asked whether greater consistency would allow his team to challenge City’s supremacy, pointing out that Pep Guardiola’s side have set a remarkable pace at the top of the table.

“It depends on what your opponents do,” Mourinho said. “I was champion in Spain with 100 points and Barcelona had 91 points. Ninety-one points was a failure for Barcelona? I don’t think it was but the other guys did 100 points.

“So in this season many clubs had positive seasons, like us, like Tottenham, like Liverpool. But it was impossible because City were really good and consistent and will reach a number of points that makes it impossible for you. If they do the same number of points [next season] it will be almost impossible. If they get into 90-something points, it is almost impossible.”

City have 87 points from 33 games and need nine more to break the record set by Mourinho’s Chelsea team in 2005. “I was champions with Chelsea with 95 points,” Mourinho said. “We gave no chance to the opponents, which is what Manchester City did. We had periods of winning matches and waiting for them to lose a couple of points. They never did it.

“Even when they were almost losing points they managed to win against Bournemouth in minute 145 and some other matches where they won in 90-something. They were really strong. That is why there is no question about who deserves to be champions.”

United prepared for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham by beating Bournemouth on Wednesday, with Paul Pogba recovering well from his disappointing display in last Sunday’s defeat by West Brom.

“I told him after the Manchester City game that I am not expecting him to be the man of the match in every match,” Mourinho said. “I am not expecting him to be phenomenal in every match, because that is really difficult, but to keep a certain level is the challenge.

“He was phenomenal against City. I think he was not good against West Brom. And I think he was phenomenal again against Bournemouth. Against City you have the two goals where people can say: ‘Wow, super decisive.’ But I think he played even better against Bournemouth. Since minute one he was more consistent, more in control of the game.”

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