Jose Mourinho claims his former club Manchester United have been “lucky” on their march towards the top four – even though he sees much to admire.
As Mourinho has been toiling with an injury-hit Tottenham team, United have emerged from the chasing pack to mount a challenge for a place in next season’s Champions League.
The signing of Mourinho’s fellow Portuguese Bruno Fernandes in January has proven a masterstroke, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have improved to such an extent many fancy them to push for 2020-21 honours.
Mourinho can appreciate the swagger that has been restored to the Red Devils ranks, but he also claims United have benefited from good fortune along the way.
As recently as Thursday, Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish was incredulous when his team were denied a penalty after Wilfried Zaha went down under a challenge from United defender Victor Lindelof early in their Selhurst Park clash.
And Mourinho was upset last month when United were awarded a penalty from which they equalised against his Spurs team, earning a 1-1 draw.
Looking at the battle for top-four places, Mourinho said: “If Man United does it, they will do it by playing very well in the second part of the season. When you play well, you deserve. On top of that, everybody knows they were a bit lucky, more than one time. Luck that we didn’t have.”
Speaking in his Spurs news conference, Mourinho spoke further about his perception United had been able to strike it lucky with decisions in the age of video assistant referees.
“VAR shouldn’t be about that. VAR should be simple, pure, clear decisions,” Mourinho said. “The space for the mistake is the man on the pitch having to make very difficult decisions, 200mph, different angles of vision, that is the mistake that we learn how to respect in football.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to accept, but you understand [a referee’s mistake]. Everybody makes mistakes.”
Mourinho was glad to hear news that supporters could be allowed back into stadiums from October, as announced by UK prime minister Boris Johnson earlier on Friday.
“Did he say anything about me going to Portugal for a week’s holiday?” Mourinho joked.
On a serious note, Mourinho said he would listen to Serge Aurier before deciding if he should face Leicester City on Sunday, following the death of the Ivorian defender’s brother.
“It will be him opening up his heart, letting us understand his conditions,” Mourinho said.
Mourinho expressed delight at 19-year-old midfielder Oliver Skipp signing a new four-year contract, describing him as a potential leader in years to come.
“I think he can be a future captain here. Hugo [Lloris], Harry [Kane]…I see this kid one day captaining this club by his character and personality,” Mourinho added. “I feel very happy that he’s signed.