Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has stated that he is already looking ahead to playing in the round of 16 of this season’s UEFA Champions League.
After failing to qualify for the last two Champions League campaigns, Manchester United will be staging a return to Europe’s elite club competiton on Tuesday at home to Basel.
Manchester United are drawn in Group A with two-time champions Benfica of Portugal, Russia’s CSKA Moscow and Basel of Switzerland.
Speaking in Monday’s press conference ahead of Manchester United’s first game against Basel at Old Trafford on Tuesday, Mourinho says he is looking forward to the clash after a long while.
“We have to try to qualify and we have to try to go to the last 16 and enjoy that special knock-out phase with the best teams in Europe,” Mourinho said.
“Being back in the Champions League is going back to the natural habitat. Manchester United [have been there] season after season. For some players there’s the motivation of playing in it for the first time, so we look forward to the match and I hope also Old Trafford feels it in the same way we are feeling.”
Mourinho who won the Champions League with FC Porto (2004) and Inter Milan (2010) expressed confidence that Manchester United are good enough for a win.
Mourinho added: “To be humble is to admit the opponent has the same ambition as we have and that the opponent can perfectly come here, like they did in the past, and give Manchester United a bad taste. But we are strong, we are playing well, we have good confidence in ourselves, and in spite of the match being difficult tomorrow, we will try to win.”
Commenting on who will be available for Manchester United against Basel, Mourinho revealed three sure starters.
“I think at this moment David [De Gea] is playing very well and is very confident. I will go with David tomorrow again,” Mourinho added.
“Even if [Eric] Bailly and [Phil] Jones were not suspended, probably I would still play Lindelof and Smalling tomorrow. They are at the same level, they are just different players.
“I think it’s easier for him (Lindelof) to play in the Champions League, it’s more comparable to the Portuguese style of play. He needs a bit of time for the Premier League, but step by step he’ll get there. There are reasons for the other boys to be worried because Victor is a very good player.”
He however stated that Maroune Fellaini who missed United’s Premier League clash against Stoke City on Saturday due to injury, might be included in the squad.
“Let’s see if he (Fellaini) can train today,” said Mourinho. “He’s a very important player for me, much more important than you can imagine.”
“He had a [calf] problem with his national team and then he played a match against Greece, and after the match he felt the problem. If his condition improves he will be selected, because I need him.”