José Mourinho is determined that Manchester United should be giants on the pitch as well as in terms of their history as they prepare to tangle with Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
How much are you looking forward to the UEFA Super Cup match?
José Mourinho: It’s a fantastic opportunity to play against the best team in Europe, and one thing is to do that in friendly matches in the USA, and it’s quite another to play against them when they are in peak condition and fully motivated.
Our players don’t have a wealth of experience of big European matches. This is a new Manchester United, a new generation of players; last season was the Europa League, which was also so important for us in terms of gaining experience, but now we’re returning to the Champions League and to the UEFA Super Cup against the best team in Europe, so it’s a great opportunity.
You have never won the UEFA Super Cup as a coach. What would it mean to win it now?
Mourinho: Every time I’ve contested the UEFA Super Cup, it was as the Europa League winners. When I won the Champions League with Porto, I left Porto. When I won the Champions League with Inter, I left Inter. So I’ve never contested the UEFA Super Cup as the strongest team. It’s the same story this time: I’m taking Manchester United to play against Real Madrid, the Champions League winners. Hopefully this time we can do it.
Are you looking forward to facing your old team?
Mourinho: I don’t look at them as a former team. It’s something I’ve been through many times. I left Porto and two months later I was facing them in the Champions League. I left Chelsea and a few months later I was facing them with Manchester United. I never look at it in terms of taking on my former club, not at all. So I just look at Real Madrid as what they are: a big club, the European champions, and it’s a great motivation for us to play against them.
What European ambitions and aims do you have for this season’s UEFA Champions League?
Mourinho: We are new to the competition. It’s absolutely true that Manchester United are one of the top three football clubs in the world, no doubt about it, but the football club is one thing and the team’s credentials going into a competition are another thing entirely. So we have a giant on our chest, one which is really heavy, but we don’t compare our potential to the biggest clubs in Europe right now. So we’ll take it step by step and be humble. The first step is to try to finish in the top three. If we manage that, we’ll try to finish in the top two. Then, when you are in the Champions League last-16 draw, anything can happen.
How important is it to be bringing UEFA Champions League football back to Old Trafford?
Mourinho: The club will always be a giant … but our job is to try to bring the football team back to that stature. That’s something really difficult these days: before, the giants were the powerful ones economically, and now there are small clubs in terms of prestige and history who are giants economically. That changes absolutely everything. But my feeling is that I want the team to be on a par with the club’s history, which is something I’ve been lucky enough to feel at every club: there was the same kind of feeling at Inter and Real Madrid.
This is where we want to be. And obviously we’ll improve the team and try to be at that level.