Jose Mourinho has stated that Manchester United can start dreaming of winning this season’s UEFA Champions League once they advance into the quarter-finals.
United will be guests of Sevilla in the first-leg of the round of 16 in this season’s competition on Wednesday.
The Red Devils, who are three-time Champions League winners, last won the competition in 2008 under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Porto was an inexperienced team in the Champions League,” Mourinho said in his press conference on Tuesday, referring to the team he led to win the competition in 2004 . “I won with Inter which was exactly the opposite, with lots of players over 30.
“I think this squad is more in the middle a bit. But in the end Champions League dreams start around the quarter-final, not yet.
“Last-16 still looks a long way to go. At the moment, we have to focus on a very difficult moment.
“Any team that reaches the quarter-final has a chance.
“I never thought with Inter or Porto that we had a chance until we got to the quarter-final.
“Some clubs are more ready in this moment to win it, but it’s when you reach the quarter-finals that you feel anything can happen.”
Mourinho said he does not see United beating Sevilla by a wide margin on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s possible to score six here [As he did with Madrid].
“It takes Ronaldo or Messi in their best days to smash goals here.
“Betis in the derby was a one-off.
“Montella (the Sevilla manager) is Italian, and Italians know how to organise their teams defensively”
The Portuguese relived his time in Spain as Real Madrid manager, also stating how he halted the dominance of Barcelona.
“There were just three (trophies),” Mourinho added.
“I came here in a difficult period for my club (Real Madrid), in a period of a great dominance of our big rival.
“To win the league meant a lot. The UEFA Cup (with Porto) in Sevilla in 2003 meant a lot”
The former Chelsea manager said the lure of Champions League football was one of the main reasons Alexis Sanchez dumped Arsenal for United.
He said: “Manchester United in the Champions League is quite a big thing, we always want to play against the best teams and this is why we like this competition.
“So, Alexis wanted to come to a team in order to play in the Champions League [this season].”
And on the issue of injuries with his team, including the fitness status of Paul Pogba, Mourinho said: “I opened the training session today in the period we don’t normally open.
“We normally do the warm-up and the first simple drills and this time we did it for quite a long time in the last period so we could see the players in a competitive situation and when a player is in that type of situation it is because the players are normally ready and without problems.
“So you could see that in training some people that didn’t play against Huddersfield with problems like Pogba, Valencia, Rashford, Herrera, so I think in an objective way you could look at it.”