Jose Mourinho last week claimed that the pressure of European football next season would mean Liverpool and Chelsea might not enjoy the same success they did in their 2016/17 campaigns.
After disappointing seasons the previous year, neither side had to deal with the added difficulty of midweek assignments across the continent and so, for the most part, played one match each week. In total, they each played 47 competitive games. Conversely, United, thanks to their Europa League and EFL Cup wins, played 64.
Jose Mourinho constantly reminded us throughout the year how busy their schedule was and told ESPN last week that his rivals will soon find out just how hard it can be to fight on so many fronts.
“There is one thing, this season is going to be a little more balanced because of the fact the top six are all in European competitions.
“Not like last season, when Chelsea and Liverpool played all season one match per week, with all the others playing in Europeans competitions – especially us, playing in Europa League.”
“Next season, six teams, and also Everton, are going to play in Europe and that is going to create a new situation for Chelsea and Liverpool.”
Unsurprisingly, Jurgen Klopp couldn’t resist hitting back at The Special One. As quoted by Football 365, he said:
“I’m not interested in what Jose Mourinho says. Why should I talk about Manchester United? Jose is talking about us, yes.
“We had a season of what Man United had the year before. I don’t know if anybody asked us how it felt.
“The Europa League was hard. Yes, Chelsea will feel also the difference, they played something like 13 players last season. But it’s also not my problem if they use only 11, well done. I do not want to be part of this – I am not interested.”
The German then suggested that, although United did what his side couldn’t and won the Europa League, it was simply because of the calibre of opponent faced.
“Sorry that we lost the final yes, that’s right. We played Sevilla, they played Ajax. That’s the difference.”
Klopp and Mourinho clashed last season when their teams met at Old Trafford in January but the on-pitch action was fairly insipid.
Despite completing a deal for the highly sought-after Mohammed Salah, the Merseysiders’ transfer business has been largely frustrating and Mourinho may well be proven right that strength in-depth is an issue.
United, meanwhile, have seen three players leave the club and have only gotten two signings over the line. Considering how threadbare their squad became at times last season, the Reds will surely be adding more new names in the coming weeks.