Jose Mourinho has conceded the Premier League title by admitting that Manchester United are now trying to finish ‘the first of the last’.
United’s defeat to Tottenham in midweek left them a huge 15 points behind leaders Manchester City, and Mourinho accepts the gap is too big to close with 13 games to go.
‘We need points to be the first of the last,’ said Mourinho ahead of Saturday’s game at home to Huddersfield Town, who claimed a surprise win over United in the reverse fixture in October.
‘We have to try to finish second. We are in this positions all season. We were first for a few weeks and then we were always second. I don’t remember us being fourth, fifth or sixth, we have been there since the beginning of the season.’
Mourinho is insistent that United have improved since his first season.
However, when asked if it was hard to concede the title to City in the first week of February, he admitted that Guardiola’s side have been far superior to their rivals and, crucially, won games they didn’t deserve to win.
‘It makes me feel that they are doing so, so well, that they are not letting the others come close to them, as simple as that,’ he added.
‘With the number of points and improvement in relation to last season, the distance would be a distance that leaves the fight open. The fight is open for second, third fourth fifth and sixth, but it’s practically closed for the first.
‘I cannot say we, Tottenham or Chelsea is doing bad because the points we have are very reasonable, but Manchester City started strong and kept going strong and managed to win matches they didn’t deserve – I give credit – with that last push of the last-minute goal, the winning goal in extra-time – they managed to do that in a way where that’s the distance.
‘If you tell me all six want to be champion and only one will be and the other five fail, I think that is too pragmatic a way to look at it because you can do positive work and not win the title.
‘We are better than last season in every aspect – points, position, number of goals scored, conceded. Better in everything, so we have to try to stay there and is not easy because there are some very good teams.
‘Chelsea is champions again, Liverpool is a great team, Arsenal improved a lot in the market, Tottenham is a fantastic team and they are five points behind us, so we are doing quite well, with some negative moments. Wednesday was one. It’s very important to do better than last season and try to win something, and if not do better.’
United will hold a memorial service for fans to mark the 60th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster before the game against Huddersfield, and Mourinho paid his own tribute.
He said: ‘This is something that is part of my life, or part of my football culture before I became Manchester United manager.
‘Why? Because it was such a tragedy that stayed in these last 60 years. So as Manchester United manager, it obviously means much more but I think it belongs to every sportsman as one of the biggest tragedies, and at the same time is a crucial point in Manchester United’s history – the reaction, the strength, the union after that situation.
‘I think tomorrow is an amazing day to show the respect, to show the passion for the club, respect for them, the families. I think is a day to play well, a day to bring happiness, to bring joy for people to be together, enjoying their colours and at the same time showing all the respect for the people and the families.’