Jose Mourinho has reminded his Manchester United players to enjoy the occasion as they take on Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup in Macedonia on Tuesday.
The two sides met during pre-season in Los Angeles, with Mourinho’s side emerging as winners from a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw.
Man United’s last competitive clash with Los Blancos came back in 2013 when Cristiano Ronaldo – included in the Madrid squad despite initial doubts over his fitness – put his former side out of the Champions League following Nani’s controversial red card.
And Mourinho, speaking at a press conference in Skopje, emphasised the importance of enjoying the occasion against his old side.
“We have to enjoy this moment,” he insisted.
“It’s not many times a player can play in the Super Cup unless you are Real or Barcelona, winning European trophies regularly. I only hope tomorrow the team that wins, the doping control people allow them to celebrate and enjoy their moment.
“We are going to try, that’s obvious but the difference between the CL winner and Europa League winner is also obvious. The top quality is in the Champions League, the semi finals usually have four of the best five or six teams in Europe.”
Amid the tense pursuit of Europa League glory and, crucially, Champions League football, Mourinho pointed towards the Super Cup as another incentive.
Now, to most supporters, this fixture is just an epiphenomenon arising from the actually important goal of being amongst Europe’s elite this season, but the Portuguese recognises that this clash has its own special value.
Not only will the game against the European champions serve as an important litmus test ahead of United’s return to the Champions League; it presents Mourinho’s men with a chance to send a message to the rest of Europe – to prove in emphatic terms that they mean business.