José Mourinho has said that Manchester United have not yet reached “heaven” despite a 13-match unbeaten run that includes victory in the past seven games.
United start their defence of the FA Cup against Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday in the midst of their finest form under Mourinho.
Yet the manager insists that even when United suffered four successive home draws against Burnley, Stoke City, Arsenal and West Ham United in the Premier League, they were not in “hell” either, because of the stability that was the key factor in their upward curve.
“The style of play was coming, and the players were very open for that, very keen for that. The most important thing for us, more than the style of play, was [we had] bad results but stability,” said Mourinho, who confirmed Wayne Rooney and Sergio Romero would start against Reading.
“We were stable in our performances, stable in our relationships, stable in our mood, stable in our ambitions, stable in our relations with the board and with the owners. Everything was stable and we knew that playing the way we were playing, the good results would follow sooner or later.
“So we had draw, draw, draw, draw and big distance to the top four, but we were playing well, so there was nothing to change at all and we were very patient and stable. We were not in hell. And in this moment we are stable again and we are not [yet] in heaven and we keep working. This stability is the most important factor for us.”
Mourinho believes that this stability at the club allowed a strong bond to develop between him and his players and that it was aided, conversely, by the poor results.
“The bond is developed quicker when you win,” he said. “This [season] is different than other places because it’s a place where it took more time to go into a winning period. We built that relationship based not on good results but based on bad results and this is the big difference.
“When you have at the beginning of the season a run of two or three months of winning, winning, winning, it is paradise. Everybody is friendly with everybody, everybody hugs everybody and everybody kisses everybody. But when you have bad results there is normally a tendency for that to be delayed and sometimes things even degenerate and there is no way back.
“ But we were calm, we were positive, nobody was against anybody. I was trusting the players and the players were trusting me. The board always told me you are here for three years, keep doing your job, no bad results will change our idea of having you here for a long time.”
Mourinho is without Eric Bailly for up to five weeks as the Ivory Coast central defender will participate in the Africa Cup of Nations but he said he would not sign any cover and instead rely on Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling.
“I’ll wait for Bailly,” he said. “I hope the three can control the situation in those eight matches. I will try to rest one in every game. On Saturday I will rest one, against Hull another – and we’ll try to make a rotation between these three. We still have Daley Blind as the fourth in case we need him to play there. We have Michael Carrick – so let’s try.”
United are 10 points behind Chelsea with hopes of a title challenge and they are also through to the League Cup semi-finals and the Europa League last 32 and their Cup defence starts on Saturday.
Asked if he believes he has the depth of squad to negotiate the four competitions, Mourinho said: “I have 24 players [Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay are not under consideration as they wish to leave]. I cannot have 25 or 30. We have the right number of players.
“There are teams [in the Premier League] without European competitions and we are in the worst European competition to play because if you go all the way you have matches and matches and matches nonstop. We have a two-legged semi-final against Hull. If we play the final if we beat Hull we would have to play against Manchester City later because it [the league game] is scheduled for the day of the final. I hope we are going to have a very complicated situation, but it would be very complicated.” – The Guardian