Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, after last week's FA Cup quarter final win over Brighton at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett

MANCHESTER - Jose Mourinho has launched a defiant defence of his Manchester United reign, insisting "people with a brain" should understand his team are going through a rebuilding period.

United have endured a difficult season and trail 16 points behind runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Mourinho's side crashed out of the Champions League after a tame home defeat to Sevilla and also suffered an embarrassing League Cup exit against second tier Bristol City.

"I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don't understand anything more than that," Mourinho told CNN.

"In the history of football all around the world, not just in England, you had the biggest clubs with the moments of transition, you have the biggest clubs with moments of continuous and permanent victories, and these are phases in the club."

Widely criticised for the unadventurous nature of United's performances for much of this season, Mourinho has been increasingly tetchy of late.

The former Chelsea boss, who won the Europa League and League Cup with United last term, reasserted his credentials as the right man for the job during an impassioned 12-minute speech to the media last week. 

But he then accused his players of being scared to play and questioned their personality following Saturday's drab FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton.

Now Mourinho has again claimed he will eventually get United back on track and that anyone who understands football should appreciate the size of the task he faced following the failed reigns of Louis van Gaal and David Moyes.

Highlighting City's spending under boss Pep Guardiola and the club's Abu Dhabi-based owners, Mourinho told CNN: "Looking to us in the Premier League we have one team, one club clearly better prepared than us in the past few years to be first and we have 18 clubs behind us. One in front of us, 18 behind us.

"Of course, in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality, and the reality is for people with a brain, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition.

"And being in a moment of transition and still managing to do what we did last season, and win trophies, and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy and trying to be second. I think we are in a good position."

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