JOSE MOURINHO has laid it right on the line for Manchester United fans.
The club will never give up trying to keep pace with neighbours Manchester City but, the reality is, it is tough.
Boss Mourinho uses one example of having to play Romelu Lukaku when he needs a rest — due to a lack of striking alternatives — while City can chop and change.
Mourinho said: “I don’t want to take any credit from what City are doing. But it’s difficult.
“Is it possible? Yes. But if you don’t have that financial profile of club where there are no limits, there is only one way — patience and calm and time.
“For example, we bought a striker in the summer — a very good striker — but that was to replace Zlatan. It was not him and Zlatan in the best of their form from day one.”
City have been able to rotate Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus all season.
But Mourinho says Lukaku needs a rest — and his recent blunders in helping City to two goals and Burnley to one could be a consequence of his fatigue.
Yet he claims he cannot let him have time out from the league as there is no one to replace him with Zlatan still struggling to get back to his best after his knee injury.
Clearly, he does not trust Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial to lead the line. As for Lukaku’s output Mourinho added: “For a striker, he’s absolutely incredible.
“If you are a central defender, a holding midfield player, where you can control your energy, positional play, you can resist, survive.
“For a striker to play 20 matches in the PL, 90 minutes each time, I have to be grateful.
“He was in the picture in some of the last goals we conceded but it is a consequence of a player that really needs a little rest.
“The boy is tired. He is physically a monster but not a machine and he’s feeling it. And Zlatan is a man with an incredible injury. A man 36 years old and so many miles in high-level football, so is not easy.”
Mourinho pointed out each signing has been to replace not to add to what he has at Old Trafford.
He said: “We signed Victor Lindelof as we didn’t have Marcos Rojo. If next summer we are going to sign a midfield player it will be to replace Michael Carrick.
“Michael is a phenomenal player who this season could give us nothing. So to improve our squad in midfield we would need to buy two.
“When Pep arrived, he had the goalkeeper of England, he doesn’t like, so he buys the goalkeeper of Barcelona, he doesn’t like him, he buys another one, now he likes him.
“He has Zabaleta and Kolarov, two very good players but more than 30 years old.
“So he wants to replace. He doesn’t replace with two, he replaces with three. One from Tottenham, one from Monaco, one from Real Madrid.
“Can we buy six, seven players at the same time, can we invest £600, £700million? No, no, so, it’s difficult.
“The last years the market has gone in such a direction or you belong to one of these clubs where there is no limit and you buy what you want, no limit, no FFP, nothing. You do what you want. Or it’s hard.”
Mourinho believes it will be a slow build at United and was at pains to explain why he said this week that the £300m he has spent was not enough — as the foundations were not already in place.
He said: “Next season we are going to get two or three more and lose two or three.
“It’s not going to be a dramatic change or dramatic improvement but with time, step by step, with some balance.
“We all know we invested a lot so it wouldn’t be fair of me to say the club didn’t support me.
“The problem is not the money we invest, the problem is the money the others invest. Others with better squads, with better stability, with more options.”
Yet the Special One believes this United are not doing badly ahead of today’s Southampton clash.
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They are 10 points better off than this time last term but City are still 15 clear, so it does not look great.
He added: “My boys are doing what they can. We could do better. Always. But I am happy with what they give me every week.”
City are doing better, and the fear is they will get even better, The Abu Dhabi money is not going to be running out any day soon.
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