Jose Mourinho has admitted that the Europa League is “not the big dream for every big player” but they have to find motivation and Manchester United want to win the competition.
United manager Mourinho is preparing his team for the opening Europa League game of the season on Thursday, away against Feyenoord, and is disappointed that the stadium will be at reduced capacity due to crowd trouble.
Speaking at his news conference on Wednesday, Mourinho said: “This is not a competition that Man United wants. It’s not the big dream of every big player, but we are not in the Champions League.
“We come to win the game. We want to win the competition. It’s difficult to do, but it’s simple to feel it and to say. This is the way we want to approach the competition.
“For a club of our dimension, to do well is not to be out in the group phase. Tomorrow is an important match for us.”
The United manager warned against complacency, giving a reminder of what happened to Louis van Gaal’s side last season in the Europa League. They lost a first-leg tie away against minnows FC Midtjylland, which was a low point in the Dutchman’s reign, and do not want a repeat.
Mourinho said: “If you see what happened last season, against Midtjylland, you don’t forget that as a fan. Maybe as a player but not the fans. We have to make sure we are not sleeping.”
Discussing the situation with the stadium, he added: “There is not player or manager who wants to play in an empty stadium. We are lucky it is not closed, just half of it, but half is not the same as full. Every player wants a great atmosphere.
“I remember clearly what happened against Roma [when some Feyenoord fans caused trouble, leading to the Dutch club being punished]. I don’t think this is Feyenoord. Feyenoord is much bigger than a few hundred that created that situation.
“But, in the end, the clubs are punished by these actions. The players are going to be punished, I am punished, [Feyenoord manager Giovanni] van Bronckhorst will be punished.”
Meanwhile, midfielder Ander Herrera has said that he will “never give up” in his new deeper role. The Spaniard was brought into that position as a substitute against Manchester City on Saturday and it helped United to improve in the second half although they lost 2-1.
Herrera said: “I can make mistakes because I am human but what I am not going to do is give up. Never. I try to share my energy with the team, to win the ball back as quick as possible.
“I will keep doing the same the the manager wants me to play. I am a team player and I am ready. I will do what the manager asks me.”
When asked about Mourinho’s message after the derby, Herrera said: “All I can say is that he has shown us his confidence. He believes in us.
“They were better than us in the first half, we have to accept that, no excuses. But next time we face a team like Man City, who like to play from their keeper, we will do it better. You have to learn from every situation.”