Jose Mourinho admitted he is hurt by Manchester United’s absence from the Champions League, with the Portuguese manager already focused on the club’s transfer business in the off-season.
Mourinho and Co. have been forced to settle for Europa League football this season after former boss Louis van Gaal was unable to deliver a top-four finish in the Premier League last term.
United are preparing for the last 32 in the Europa League – against Saint-Etienne – and Mourinho is desperate to be back among Europe’s elite, with the Manchester club sixth in the Premier League and five points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool ahead of Wednesday’s clash against Hull City.
“Personally, I miss the Champions League,” said Mourinho, who has won the Champions League with Inter and Porto. “Every match I don’t play in the Champions League means an incredible number of matches is not going up.
“I am the youngest one to be in the club of 100. Every time I don’t play I am not happy.
“But obviously Manchester United is much more important than me. What matters is Manchester United, and as everyone knows, it’s a club that belongs to the Champions League.
“We shall do everything possible to make sure we are in it next season.
“We have two chances to be there: one is by winning the Europa League, the other is by finishing in the top four. Both achievable, both difficult, but we are going to work hard for that.”
Mourinho has put faith in his squad to deliver Champions League football either via a top-four finish or by winning the Europa League after a quiet January transfer window.
There were no reinforcements for United, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay the only departures, but Mourinho is expected to step up his transfer activity at the end of the season.
Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann is reportedly Mourinho’s prime target and he told reporters: “We are more focused on the summer period.
“I like my players, so nothing for me [in this window]. I know what I want, the market closes today, so there is no point in me speaking about the next transfer window when we have so many matches to play, so much to fight for, so many good players to work with.
“If you ask me ‘do I know what I want for the next transfer window?’ yes I know. Is it possible to get? I’ll try, always, to be realistic.
“I remember years ago when I was asking for a second goalkeeper, my technical director gave me a list of possible second goalkeepers and the first name was Gianluigi Buffon!
“But I’m always realistic, always try to give options that are gettable, but we’ll have time to speak about that in the summer.”
One current player whose future appears uncertain under Mourinho is Anthony Martial.
In and out of the team this term, Martial has been urged to seize his opportunities but the France international’s double-assist display in the 4-0 FA Cup victory over Wigan did not do enough to convince Mourinho.
Mourinho said the 21-year-old will start on the bench against Hull at Old Trafford.
“He has to perform better than the others who are competing for the same positions,” Mourinho added. “Do you want me to leave Henrikh Mkhitaryan out after he was man of the match and played so well? I can’t. The players pick themselves. Mkhitaryan has to play. Simple.”