Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has predicted a seven-way battle for the Premier League title this season. His former club Chelsea lifted the title last season with Tottenham Hotspur coming second, Manchester City came third, Liverpool fourth, Arsenal fifth and Manchester United finishing sixth. Everton, who finished seventh, have strengthened this season and will be a challenge, as they were to get into the top six last season. Mourinho, who won a place in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League with United by winning the UEFA Europa League will be participating in the elite European competition with Chelsea, Spurs, City and Liverpool as the fifth entrant from England. Everton and Arsenal will play in the Europa League.
Mourinho has won the league title in the second year of spells with FC Porto, Chelsea (twice), Inter Milan and Real Madrid and will be aiming to keep his record in tact this season with Manchester United. United fell short in the Premier League last season, seeing themselves draw too many matches, failing to turn Old Trafford into a fortress and with the Europa League taking its toll on the squad towards the end of the season with United going all the way to the final in Stockholm, Sweden and bringing the only trophy the club had never won back to Manchester. With the fact Mourinho has always been more successful in his second season at Old Trafford club, this has ramped up the pressure amongst United’s rivals, who will be pitted to stop United from being crowned champions. Mourinho, speaking during his press conference on Friday, the comments embargoed for Saturday’s newspapers, said:
“Everybody – the top seven – are all in Europe.
“Last season, two of them were not in Europe. This time we’re all in the same basket and it’s going to be the same for everybody.
“Okay, some will have the luck to play on Tuesday or Wednesday, or Saturday or Sunday.
“But, in the end, the number of matches will be the same for everybody. Arsenal and Everton are in the Europa League, so they have to play on Thursdays.
“But the top seven, we’re going to be in the four competitions, so there’s no advantage for any one of us.
“I’d say there are seven teams to fight for the title. It’s the objective of every one of the top teams and every one of the top team managers.”
Both Liverpool and Chelsea did not play in European competition last season, so Mourinho will be watching them closely throughout the season as the toll of European away matches, especially on a club not used to the extra fixtures, could see United pounce, taking an advantage in the league, which will be much-needed this season in order for Mourinho to keep his second season record. Of course, he would have loved to win the title in his first season at United, but by winning the trophies he did with the club, that should instill the right mentality in the players ready for the challenge this season.
With Mourinho suggesting seven teams will contest the title this season, none of them will have an advantage, all playing in Europe. The five Champions League clubs may gain an advantage on those playing in the Europa League, as United suffered last season, but that does not mean both Arsenal and Everton will suffer the same. The draw could be much kinder to them, providing Everton do reach the group stages of the Europa League as they still have the play-off round to play. Liverpool need to beat Hoffenheim to get in the Champions League proper, so they may yet have an advantage in the Premier League, but like all the other chances they have had, will no doubt let that slip once again.