Jose Mourinho refuses to answer question on Manchester United's title chances with current squad

Manager unhappy with pre-season preparations in light of availability of players

FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, April 29, 2018, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho walks on the pitch at the end of the English Premier League soccer match against Arsenal at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England.  Mourinho on Wednesday July 18, 2018, has described the team’s preseason as “very bad” because of the absence of key players with the disruption caused by the World Cup. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, FILE)
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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho declined to answer when asked if he would be confident of challenging for the Premier League title next season with no further additions to his squad.

United came second last term, 19 points behind champions Manchester City, and have since signed three players - midfielder Fred, full-back Diogo Dalot and goalkeeper Lee Grant.

When the question about his squad and challenging next season was put to him on Tuesday at a news conference in Los Angeles, Mourinho replied: "I don't answer to your question."

Earlier on Tuesday, the Portuguese had been quoted in an interview with ESPN as saying, when asked how many new signings he would like: "I would get two more players."

He also said: "One thing is what I would like. Another thing is what is going to happen."

United, who face AC Milan in the third match of their United States pre-season tour on Wednesday, have a number of players on post-World Cup breaks.

It was put to Mourinho at the news conference that some of United's rivals had a similar situation to deal with.

And he replied: "If you look to the players Chelsea and Liverpool have in pre-season, especially these two teams, also Arsenal, I think if you compare you see the difference of the situation.

"Man City and Tottenham are in the similar situation as we are."

He added: "I am happy with the evolution of the matches [on the tour], but I don't have the players to work.

"I don't have the majority of the players that are going to be in the squad on August 9 when the market closes and we can make it official for the season. So of course I'm not happy, to have just a few players."

Mourinho also said at the news conference, footage of which was shown on Sky Sports News, that "the situation is not amazing" for United with regard to their first two league games of 2018/19, Leicester City at home on August 10 and Brighton away nine days later.

"When I look to Leicester, if I am not wrong, only [Harry] Maguire and [Jamie] Vardy were in the World Cup, the final phase, because [Kasper] Schmiechel was, but back sooner," he said.

"I think a team that is working for six weeks minimum, with all the players except one central defender and one striker that can join in the last week and probably be available, I think that is clear, a much better situation for them.

"When I look to Brighton, the second game, I don't think they have any player that is not doing a very good pre-season with lots of matches and training all together.

"So, of course, against Leicester and Brighton, the situation is not amazing for us.

"I would say the third match [against Tottenham Hotspur at home on August 27], playing against a team in a similar situation as us, I think then after three weeks is okay.

"But for the first two matches we have to fight for the points, because we need the points. So that is what we are going to do with the players we have available."

Mourinho also said he did not know whether defender Marcos Rojo would be joining up with the squad in the US, having had "some physical problem".


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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15:  Paul Pogba of France celebrates with after scoring during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Mourinho's comments to ESPN on Tuesday also included thoughts on Paul Pogba.

After an inconsistent 2017/18 with United, the midfielder impressed as he helped France win the World Cup.

Mourinho said: "I don't think it's about us getting the best out of him, it's about him giving the best he has to give.

"I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give [their] best. Why? Because it's closed for a month, where he can only think about football. Where he's with his team on the training camp, completely isolated from the external world, where they focus just on football, where the dimensions of the game can only motivate.

"During a season, you can have a big match then a smaller match, then one even smaller, then you can lose your focus, you can lose your concentration, then comes a big match again."