As the season draws to a close, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Europa League represents Manchester United’s best chance to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
The Red Devils have been out of the title race for a long time and their chances of finishing in the top four are looking unlikely with tough trips to Burnley, Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal still to come.
And it’s something that Mourinho has realised in recent weeks.
The Portuguese boss has hinted that he could start prioritising the European competition if their chances of finishing in the top four take any further blows.
"The quarter final – you smell the final and then in a certain period of the season I have to analyse my team, the players, the condition of everyone and I have to make choices,” he said ahead of their clash against Anderlecht.
"I have to make choices but choices that I would always share with my owners, with my board.”
Winning the Europa League would be "perfect"
And, after the match, Mourinho explained how winning the Europa League would be “perfect" for his side.
"It will be the perfect end to the season," Mourinho said.
"A difficult season, lots of matches, trying to build a team, trying to recover a certain mentality, trying to finish the season playing a European final.
"It will be the perfect finale for Manchester United.”
Europa League is a "disappointment"
Oh how times have changed.
Mourinho is used to managing in the Champions League, having lifted Europe’s elite trophy with Porto and Inter - as well as competing in it for Chelsea and Real Madrid.
The Europa League is a competition that he simply isn’t familiar with - and it wasn’t long ago that he was slagging it off altogether.
Rafael Benitez led Chelsea to Europa League glory in the 2012/13 season but Mourinho, who took over from Benitez that summer, believed winning the competition was a “disappointment.”
"I don't want to win the Europa League,” he said at the time.
"It would be a big disappointment for me. I don't want my players to feel the Europa League is our competition.”
Less than four years later and Mourinho needs to win the Europa League to salvage an underwhelming campaign at Old Trafford.
UEFA may have decided to start awarding the winner with a Champions League place but it’s the same competition and Mourinho’s words when he took over at Chelsea now look rather silly.
He certainly won’t consider it a ”big disappointment” if he leads United to Europa League glory come May.
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