Jose Mourinho has been discussing his plans ahead of next season at Manchester United, noting that he will have a “stronger group” of players at his disposal for the 2017/18 campaign.
The Portuguese has drawn praise during his debut season at Old Trafford for claiming the League Cup, reaching the Europa League and taking his side on an unbeaten Premier League run of 25 games – their longest in Premier League history.
He has, however, attracted criticism for stumbling to 14 draws in the league this season – the latest of which coming in the form of a 1-1 draw with Swansea City on Sunday.
But Mourinho, speaking after the game, was full of optimism ahead of what promises to be a defining second season.
“The group was a nice group [when I arrived at United],” he said. “Good people, good boys, committed people. So I think Mr. van Gaal left a good group of boys here with very good relations between them, and I’ve got that in my hands.
“I think they missed happiness, they missed trust, they missed belief and they missed this extra bit that brings resilience and brings you fight. And [now] they have it, so the group that will meet again on 9 July for next season is a stronger group.
“The new players, when they arrive, will find a group more ready to go for big things. But the reality is we are fighting to win the Europa League and fighting to finish fourth, so let’s go.”
Mourinho, unlike his predecessor, did not obsess over the importance of respecting a transitionary period at Old Trafford upon taking the helm, which has perhaps led to some questioning why exactly United have significantly failed to mount an instant challenge to the title this season.
But the truth is that, following a traumatic final season under Louis van Gaal, an exorcism of sorts had to take place. The challenge of overseeing not just a tactical but indeed a psychological recovery has been a difficult one for Mourinho, but nobody can deny that the groundwork is there ahead of a season that will see the footballing world demand an assault on the title from United.