Jose Mourinho has made it clear that Manchester United’s 4-0 win over West Ham United does not make them title favourites, noting that early success doesn’t always translate into a strong domestic campaign.
The Portuguese, after all, begun last season’s Premier League campaign with wins over AFC Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull City, only to suffer three defeats in row in September before failing to win a single league game between October and early December, leaving United in an endless spiral of threatening the top four spots but always remaining in sixth spot during the business end of the campaign.
United’s display against West Ham, however, has convinced many that they have turned a corner ahead of the 2017/18, replacing the neurosis in front of goal seen so regularly last season with an emphatic performance hallmarked by fast, entertaining football and, crucially, efficiency in the final third. They travel to Paul Clement’s Swansea City – who begun their campaign with a goalless draw at Saint Mary’s – on Saturday lunchtime and the eyes of the footballing world will be fixated on whether Mourinho’s men can reproduce the brilliance shown against West Ham.
But Mourinho, speaking ahead of the game, has called on supporters – and the media – to avoid calling United ‘title favourites’ following just one promising result this season.
“I’m too experienced and stable to lose my discipline, my stability and to think a 4-0 really makes us the best team in the country, the favourites or the dream team,” he said.
“We’re not favourites, we’re not the dream team, we’re just a team with more confidence than last season, with more time of work together, but I’m calm.
“When I look to the last match, I like many, many things, but the challenge is not to repeat the result, because a 4-0 win is difficult to repeat in the Premier League, but to repeat the same kind of performance.
“We had good tactical discipline in the team, a really good clean sheet, played good football, had a good dynamic in attack, we were scoring goals, winning 1-0 and we kept playing to try to score more goals and to try to play well.
“I liked a lot. I liked the fact the three subs, who are normally disappointed people to be on the bench, even five minutes like Jesse Lingard, 10 like Anthony Martial or 15 like Marouane Fellaini, they performed at same level.
“But this is just the beginning. Last season we played three matches, had nine points and finished sixth.”
Mourinho is right to throw caution into the wind of dizzy optimism amidst supporters and onlookers alike. Their promising start came to nothing last year and David Moyes begun his reign with an equally emphatic 4-1 win over Swansea.
Making any extrapolations based on the opening weekend is always risky. West Ham, after all, notably lacked a yard of pace, as did a number of teams over the weekend. Mourinho has laid the groundwork for success over the last year, with Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku serving as the latest pieces to the jigsaw, but he will be wary of the enormous amounts of work that still needs to be done.