LOS ANGELES - Jose Mourinho has warned his team they will have to fight for early points in the upcoming Premier League campaign after pre-season preparations disrupted by the World Cup.
The late World Cup runs of France, Belgium and England have wreaked havoc with United's pre-season tour of the United States, with players such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones and Ashley Young all missing.
A downbeat Mourinho on Tuesday refused to comment when asked if he was confident of winning the Premier League title this week. "I don't answer to your question," Mourinho told reporters at United's Los Angeles training base ahead of a friendly against AC Milan on Wednesday.
Asked if he was happy at how United's pre-season had worked out, Mourinho added: "No. I got the facilities as always. I got the incredible commitment of the people that are involved in the process of preparing a good pre-season. I'm happy with the matches, the evolution of the matches.
"But I don't have the players to work with. I don't have the majority of the players that are going to be in the squad on August 9th when the market closes and we can make the squad official for the season. Of course I'm not happy. I'm not happy to have just a few players."
Mourinho said he does not expect to have his team's sizeable World Cup contingent available before their third game on August 27 against Tottenham. United open their campaign at Old Trafford against Leicester City on August 10 before travelling to Brighton on August 19 for their second fixture. Mourinho said his team would have to battle to take points out of the opening two fixtures.
"The first match of the season is against Leicester and the second one is against Brighton," Mourinho said. "When I look to Leicester, if I'm not wrong, only (Harry) Maguire and (Jamie) Vardy, were in the World Cup in the final phase.
"I think a team that is working for six weeks minimum, with only one central defender and one striker missing, it is clear how much better the situation is for them. When I look to Brighton on the second game, I don't think they have any player that is not doing a very good pre-season with lots of matches and training together. So of course against Leicester and Brighton the situation is not amazing for us...we will have to fight for the points with the players we have available."
While United's title rivals have also embarked on pre-season tours missing several World Cup stars, Mourinho rejected suggestions the mass absenteeism would create a "level playing field."
"If you look to the players that Chelsea and Liverpool have in the pre-season, especially these two teams, also Arsenal, you see the difference of the situation," he said. "Man City and Tottenham in a similar situation as we are, but other clubs are in a different situation."