Jose Mourinho has hinted that Manchester United did not have the kind of structure upon which Premier League rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have built their recent success.
Mourinho parted company with United in December after two and a half years at the helm during which the club finished sixth and then a distant second behind derby rivals City, winning three trophies, but failing to reap the rewards of heavy investment in the squad.
City and Liverpool fought out a two-horse race last season with the men from Old Trafford once again crossing the line in sixth place, the former claiming the title and the latter the Champions League crown.
Asked to explain the reasons for their current dominance, the Portuguese told the Telegraph: “I think the structure of the clubs.
“When you look at City, for example: the owner, Ferran Soriano [chief executive], Txiki Begiristain [director of football], Pep Guardiola, Pep’s staff and then the players. This looks like harmony, empathy, chemistry, quality, sharing the same project, sharing the same ideas.
“Liverpool? I also think that Jurgen [Klopp] is in a good position. He is very stable. I think he has control of his ‘areas’. He is supported by people who think the same way, the structure of the club.
“Okay, Pep: fantastic coach. Jurgen: fantastic coach. I think if tomorrow one of them leaves and another top coach comes – of course he has to be top like they are – the team will still be there [at that level]. I think performance is globality. I think basically it is that.”
Mourinho is currently awaiting a new opportunity having turned down a lucrative offer to head for China, but knows when he is called upon, it will be by a club which is having problems and not one where he will inherit a finished product.
His critics accuse him of failing to get the most out of the expensively-assembled squad with which he worked during his time at United, with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez now both playing their football at Inter Milan, the latter on loan after a miserable spell in Manchester.
Mourinho said: “Sanchez… I felt him [to be] not a happy man. And I think in every job you have when you are not happy, it is not so easy to perform at every level.
“And maybe I am wrong. Maybe it was me who was not capable to get into him and to get the best out of him. As a manager, sometimes you have the capacity to get the best out of the players and other times you are not successful in that approach.
“But the reality is that I always felt [of Sanchez], ‘a sad man’. So probably in Italy he will recover this. I hope he can. I always wish well to every player.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes tying David De Gea down to a new deal will be an important statement of intent as Manchester United look to challenge for trophies again.
The Old Trafford giants’ struggles since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson could have been a whole lot worse were it not for the 28-year-old goalkeeper.
De Gea’s fine form has led to regular speculation about his future since joining from Atletico Madrid in 2011, with only paperwork preventing him returning to Spain with Real Madrid four years ago.
The shot-stopper knuckled down and signed an improved deal at United, but that contract expires at the end of the season and talks over an extension have dragged.
The Daily Record reported on Friday evening that a deal had finally been reached on a new four-year deal for the 28-year-old. The Scottish newspaper claimed the club have met De Gea’s demands to have a deal in line with that of Paul Pogba, and it is believed the Spanish stopper will now make over €15 million (£13.3m) per season.
United, however, are yet to confirm a new deal, with the option of an additional fifth year, has been signed.
There was growing confidence over the summer, both publicly and behind the scenes, that a deal was close and manager Solskjaer remains determined to keep De Gea in the north west.
“I think you need to ask David and the club (why the deal had not been sorted yet),” he said.
“I’ve obviously not been involved in all the discussions, but I’m very – or pretty – confident that we’ll get this sorted.
“David’s never, ever said anything else to me than he loves this club, he wants to stay here and he’s had a fantastic time, so let’s hope we just get it over the line.”
Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are among those to have been linked with a move for De Gea.
“Well, we’re always aware of what’s happening around in the world,” Solskjaer said when asked about contingency plans.
“But my focus and the club’s focus is to ensure and convince him to stay. He can see what we’re doing and he knows what we’re doing.
“We want players here, the best ones, and the ones we want most of the time stay. There’s not many we want to keep that we don’t manage to keep.
“I have got two very good back-up keepers, with Sergio (Romero) and Lee (Grant), Dean (Henderson) is playing at Sheff United, so the goalkeeping department is in good health.
“And, as I said, I am confident that we will manage to convince David that here is the future for him – and it is a successful future, it’s a club that wants to get back to winning trophies.”
Put to Solskjaer that a new deal for De Gea is also a statement as United do not want other clubs thinking their best players want to leave, he added: “Yeah, definitely. Because we have gotten used to top keepers here.
“You’ve got (Peter) Schmeichel, De Gea – we want the best ones – and (Edwin) van der Sar. Edwin’s getting too old now, he did OK in the (Vincent Kompany testimonial) game.
“And, no, for me we want to build a winning team again, that’s challenging for trophies.”
Solskjaer remains “confident in what we’re doing” in that process and United will look to end a three-match winless streak when Leicester visit on Saturday.
The Red Devils boss underlined the importance of scoring the goals that reflect their play, but De Gea will need to be alert to keep the Foxes at bay and will be desperate to impress after his gaffe as their last home match ended in a late defeat to Crystal Palace.
“I think he’s had a fantastic time here,” Solskjaer added.
“Yeah, of course, whenever he concedes a goal, it’s headlines that he should have saved (it).
“Whenever we lose a game… we’ve lost one game since July 1st and it sounds like we’re really struggling, but that’s just the way it is at Man Utd and you have to handle it.
“You have to be resilient, you’ve got to have robust confidence and he’s fine. I don’t worry about him at all.”
David De Gea is believed to have signed a lucrative new four-year contract with Manchester United.
The Daily Record has reported that the club have met De Gea’s demands to have a deal in line with that of Paul Pogba, and it is believed the Spanish stopper will now make over €15 million (£13.3m) per season.
The reported deal for De Gea, who was in the final year of his current contract, is also believed to include an optional fifth year for the club.
It has been a fraught and torturous negotiation process between player and club, one that had seen the 28-year-old enter the final year of his existing Old Trafford contract, raising the prospect that De Gea would exit United without a transfer fee in nine months’ time.
Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are ranked among the player’s suitors.
The failure to announce a new contract for the Spanish goalkeeper after more than two years of negotiation has created unease among the club’s support.
There have been a few twists in the tale of De Gea’s future over those two years. It appeared at one stage he was committed to stay; at another, it seemed he had resolved to leave.
Yet in July, after United made their latest offer, the feeling from both the club and the player’s camp was one of confidence. There was a strong belief that negotiations would be concluded after the pre-season tour of Australia and Asia.
Seven weeks after United returned to Manchester, there is still no official confirmation of a deal being signed. An agreement finally looks likely, although United are yet to make any official announcement confirming the deal.
Voted the Premier League’s best goalkeeper in five of the last seven seasons, De Gea wanted his status as United’s most consistently accomplished footballer to be rewarded with the same financial terms as United granted Alexis Sanchez in January 2018.
The stance of the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward had been that such an increase was impossible.
At his Friday morning press conference ahead of Saturday’s visit of Leicester to Old Trafford, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “I want David to stay here. He knows that. And David’s, for me, the best goalkeeper in the world.”