Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho has claimed that the Red Devils are at the ‘second level’ of contenders for this season’s Champions League due to the particular demands of English football.
Speaking after his side’s comfortable 3-0 Group A win over Basel, Mourinho reiterated his belief that the Premier League’s lack of a winter break hinders its clubs from challenging the continent’s elite.
Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich all began their respective European campaigns with big wins on Tuesday night and Mourinho claimed that the group stages act as a mere ‘warm-up’ for such clubs.
“I think the Champions League for these teams that you are speaking about, for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern, the Champions League starts in February.
“Now is just the warming up and in February when us English teams are trying to survive after the winter period they are fresh and ready. For them, this is a warm-up.
“We are in the ‘second level’ and the second level it’s let’s qualify, let’s make the points to qualify for the knockout phase and when we do that, if we do that, let’s enjoy playing against the big guys.”
At his pre-match press conference on Monday to preview the meeting with Basel, Mourinho suggested that United cannot yet be considered Champions League contenders as several other clubs are ahead of them.
“In the Champions League there are four or five teams with an incredible level of quality, of experience, of know-how. That’s what makes the difference,” he said.
“Apart from that, there are many teams in the Champions League that are very similar to teams in the Europa League.
“We have to try to go to the last 16 and enjoy that special knockout phase with the best teams in Europe.”