After being humped out of the Champions League by Sevilla on Tuesday night, Jose Mourinho was quick to defuse the situation by pointing out that Manchester United’s European record has been pretty limp for a while now.
He started by asserting that United being eliminated from European competition is “nothing new” before cheerfully reminding everybody that he himself had been directly responsible for two of those early exits – with Porto in 2004 and Real Madrid in 2013.
Skip forward a few days and Mourinho was again centre stage in the Carrington media room, this time to discuss United’s upcoming FA Cup quarter-final tie with Brighton.
However, conversation never actually got that far as Mourinho entered the room with a list of facts printed on a piece of paper (sound familiar?) then, after fielding a question about his team’s reaction to the Sevilla defeat, proceeded to lecture his captive audience for 12 minutes on the nature of Manchester United’s “football heritage”.
Here are the choice excerpts, taken from the Independent‘s verbatim transcript of the sermon.
I say to the fans that the fans are the fans and have the right to their opinions and reactions but there is something that I used to call ‘football heritage’. I don’t know if, I try to translate from my Portuguese, which is almost perfect, to my English, which is far from perfect – ‘football heritage’, what a manager inherits.
It is something like the last time Manchester United won the Champions League, which didn’t happen a lot of times, was in 2008. Since 2011: [In] 2012, out in the group phase, the group was almost the same group we had this season – Benfica, Basel and Otelul Galati from Romania. Out in the group phase.
In 2013, out at Old Trafford in the last 16, I was on the other bench. In 2014, out in the quarter-final. In 2015, no European football. In 2016, comes back to European football, out in the group phase, goes to Europa League and on the second knockout out of the Europa League. In 2017, play Europa League, win Europa League with me and goes back to Champions League. In 2018, win the group phase with 15 points out of a possible 18 and loses at home in the last 16.
So, in seven years with four different managers, once not qualify for Europe, twice out in the group phase and the best was the quarter-final. This is football heritage.
Gird yourself, because there’s a lot more where that came from, as Mourinho turned attention to United’s performance on the domestic front:
If you want to go to the Premier League, the last victory was 2012/13 and in the four consecutive seasons, United finish fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. So in the last four years the best was fourth. This is football heritage. It means that when you start the process you are here, you are there or you are there, is heritage.
And if the fans that I will always respect – always respect – are the ones you speak with, many of them are the ones I speak with, and I am very lucky. The ones who speak with you are very disappointed and the ones I speak with know what is football heritage, what is a process and when I arrive.
When I arrived in Real Madrid, do you know how many players had played in the quarter-final of the Champions League? Xabi Alonso with Liverpool, Iker Casillas with Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo with Manchester United. All the others not even a quarter-final. That’s football heritage.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Those stats are real. I give you a couple more real, in the last seven years the worst position of Manchester City in the Premier League was fourth. In the last seven years Manchester City was champions twice and if you want to say (almost) three times, they were second twice. That’s heritage.
Do you know what is also heritage? Is that Nicolas Otamendi, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero. They are investments from the past, not from the last two years.
Do you know how many of United players that left the club last season? See where they play, how they play, if they play. That’s football heritage. One day when I leave the next Manchester United manager will find here Lukaku, Matic, of course De Gea from many years ago, they will find players with a different mentality, quality, background, with a different status, know-how.
For some reason you go to the Champions League quarter-final like today and there are four clubs that are always there, always there. Barcelona is always there in the past seven, eight years, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and then of course appear now and again, another club like my Inter, like some other clubs like Monaco last season, but the ones that are always there is for some reason.
Pies think we can guess the reason. It wouldn’t be ‘football heritage’, would it?
We think we can see Mourinho’s point: that United have been incrementally better in both Europe and on the home front since he took over, but we’re also getting subtle overtones of the ‘my shortcomings are entirely due to the failings of others’ line of logic that Jose is (at least outwardly) consumed by.
That said, he did sign off by assuring everybody that he is in a “happy place” with an “amazing job to do”, so at least he’s keeping his pecker up.
Now, did somebody say something about an FA Cup match against Brighton?