Jose Mourinho says he is targeting the Premier League title with Manchester United this season.
Mourinho takes charge of a United side that has not won the league since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, with Louis van Gaal’s fourth-place finish in 2014-15 their best since.
However, after reinvigorating the squad with the arrivals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly — and with Paul Pogba potentially following — he is optimistic that United are ready to challenge once more.
“I want to be champion,” Mourinho said in The Sun on Sunday. “To say before the season starts that the top four is the target? The top four is not the target. We want to play to be champions.
“If during the season we realise the points difference doesn’t allow us to fight for the title, we are going to establish a new title, and when you can’t be champion the next target is to finish top four.
“But day one, I don’t want to hide behind a bad season or no Champions League football to say we want to finish top four.”
He said United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, had not set specific targets on where the team should finish.
“There was no ultimatum,” he added in The Sunday Times. “The message from the owners and Mr Woodward was: get your three years, do your work, improve the team and bring us back where we belong during a three-year period.
“My message was that I wanted to win the title in the first season.”
However, United finished fifth under Van Gaal last season, which means they will take part in the Europa League group stage in Mourinho’s debut campaign.
The former Real Madrid and Chelsea boss said playing on Thursday nights will have an impact on their Premier League campaign and said: “You need to rotate players.”
He added: “[It] is very, very difficult for the Premier League. We play on the Thursday, you travel a lot. Then the Premier League doesn’t make any favours.
“You play Thursday and then I don’t think they are going to play us Monday, they are going to play us Sunday, probably at 12 o’clock. For the Premier League it is the worst. It is much easier to be a Champions League team than that.
“Obviously it is much easier to be what Liverpool were two years ago, no Champions League and what Chelsea are next season with no Champions League.
“One complete week to work every week — that is a dream, that is a dream for a manager who wants to improve his team.
“So we are in the worst possible situation, but in this moment I want my players to think: ‘Every day I want to be champion and want to fight for the title.’”