Jose Mourinho has admitted Manchester United could struggle to compete with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City for the Premier League title next season.
United have already confirmed they will finish runners-up to City, but before today’s final game against Watford at Old Trafford, Mourinho has told fans to think realistically.
He says finishing second was the only position available since October and the dominance of their Manchester neighbours has left United 19 points adrift.
Now the Portuguese is unsure whether that gap can be overturned in a single season.
‘The difference of points tells a lot,’ Mourinho said. ‘I always think that in the championship the truth is always there. In knockout competitions, in one bad day sometimes in a lucky or unlucky moment, sometimes the truth is not always there.
‘But in championships, 38, 40 matches, the reality is always the reality of the numbers. The reality of the numbers is between second and fifth, the difference is three or four or five points but the difference between the first and second is a difference of 19.
‘That is the reality of the numbers. Can we close that gap in one season with a very difficult market, an absolutely difficult market? We are going to try.’
Finishing second is United’s best position since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season, when they won the title in 2013, and the club have the FA Cup final against Chelsea coming up.
Mourinho (above) is pleased with his players’ response to the league situation but will not be celebrating coming second to City during today’s lap of appreciation.
‘It was the position that was available since October, November and two things could happen to a club like us,’ Mourinho said.
‘One would be I cannot come first and I’m not committed, I have no pride and for me it is the same to finish second, third or fourth.
‘The other way was, “This is the position that is available and we are going for it” and before the (West Ham) game this is exactly what I told the players. Imagine if this match we need a point to be champions, do we get that point or do we not get that point? Everybody told me, “We get that point”.
‘It was based on this relation of professionalism and honesty and pride that we played for it and managed to finish second.
‘The two major domestic competitions of this country, we are at least the second best in both, the second best in the Premier League and one of the two best in the FA Cup.
‘Is it enough to celebrate? No, not for me. But we did our job the best we could and the boys now I think can feel they did a positive Premier League.’