Jose Mourinho has claimed it is ‘not fair’ that Manchester United have dropped into the Europa League and has bemoaned the entry of the Champions League’s third-placed sides into the competition.
Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League on Tuesday night following a 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig, with the Red Devils having finished third in Group H behind both the Germans and Paris Saint-Germain.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will now enter the Europa League as one of eight teams to have been eliminated from Europe’s premier club competition, where they will join Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester as the Premier League’s representatives in the round of 32.
Mourinho has expressed his unhappiness with the current system, however, questioning the sporting fairness in allowing eliminated Champions League sides to drop into the Europa League’s knockout stages.
‘It’s a point of principle,’ said Mourinho at a pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrows group decider against Antwerp. ‘If it happened to my team, I would feel exactly the same.
‘It is the way it is and honestly brings more quality to the competition. We cannot forget that. When you have eight new teams in the competition and eight teams that belong to another level, of course the level of the competition is going to improve, no doubts.
‘When the quality improves, the attention improves, and that’s a good thing for the competition but from the sporting point of view it’s not fair that a team that doesn’t succeed in one competition drops to another.
‘It’s just the principle. In football, when for some reason we don’t succeed unlucky, next season. But it is the way it is and it’s not a problem.’
Mourinho won the Europa League during his time as Manchester United manager and believes the Red Devils have instantly become one of the ‘top favourites’ to win the trophy again this season, insisting that each of the Champions League’s drop outs will be contenders to reach the final.
‘Manchester United become one of the top favourites to win the competition,’ said Mourinho. ‘The teams that drop from the Champions League are always strong teams; teams that normally don’t belong to that level of the Europa League competition.
‘Manchester United is one of the top teams. Their group was very hard: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Leipzig, very hard.
‘We all knew it was not going to be easy for any one of them and we all knew that from that group a top team would drop to the Europa League.’