Jose Mourinho has bluntly conceded Manchester United are the only team from the Premier League‘s traditional top six who have failed to become better.
United sit in seventh as they prepare to host Arsenal on Wednesday night and are eight points adrift of Unai Emery’s side in fourth. Should United suffer a fifth league defeat of the season to the Gunners then they could drop as low as 10th by the end of the night.
Mourinho’s downbeat mood in pre-season set the tone for the competitive campaign, with the United manager frustrated by the club’s failure to clinch two of his priority targets. Champions Manchester City strengthened their attack with the £60million Riyad Mahrez, Liverpool spent £170m and Chelsea reinforced their squad with a £128m outlay.
Arsenal have been re-energised by new coach Unai Emery and, although Tottenham became only the second Premier League club not to make an addition in the transfer window era, Mourinho marvelled at their internal investment in that they kept all of their players.
He said: “The distance, the 16, the eighth, the 12, the four, the five, is something I couldn’t predict. You always think in a positive way you always think the distance is not going to be so big. But I told clearly that last season we did not get the credit we deserve. I think last season, to finish second and to play the FA Cup final and to qualify in the Champions League group as first, last season at all we didn’t get the credit we deserve.
“All of the teams, they got better. Spurs was the team that didn’t make a direct investment but the best investment is to keep the top players that you have. So every team got better and we didn’t.
“So I was expecting difficulties for this season but my target is still the top four and we have to fight until the end to try to finish in the top four.”
Mourinho has repeatedly lauded Tottenham’s ability to retain their players, amid interest in Eric Dier last year and Toby Alderweireld in the most recent summer window. Last week, Mourinho said: “Can you buy Tottenham’s best players? No, because they don’t sell.
“Of course, they are so powerful that they can say no. A few years ago, who was Tottenham’s best player? Michael Carrick. And a few years later, who was the best player? Berbatov. Can we go there now and bring Harry Kane? Dele Alli, [Christian] Eriksen, Son [Heung-min]? Can we go there and bring those players here? No.
“So who is more powerful now? Them or us? Football’s changed. It’s more difficult to buy players of a high, high, high level. The clubs are more powerful. The clubs don’t want to sell, and to sell is to go to absolutely incredible levels.”
United’s summer expenditure ended at £72.5m on three players, down £68.4m from their previous year’s investment on the same number of acquisitions.