Manchester United face Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday evening, with Jose Mourinho hoping to continue his sides 100% record in the group stages of the competition so far.
Mourinho will return to Portugal where he began his managerial career 17 years ago. The Portuguese was briefly in charge of Benfica back in the 2000/01 season when he replaced then manger Jupp Heynckes – he managed the side for 11 games before resigning.
Benfica currently sit 3rd in the Primeira Liga, rather disappointingly given the club’s high expectations. And Mourinho will hope to pile the pressure on his former side as well as putting his current United team’s poor display against Liverpool at the weekend out of mind.
Speaking ahead of the game, the boss insisted he wants to elevate United back to the stature in Europe that they once had.
“This club will always be a giant but our job now is to bring the football team back to that stature,” he said.
“I want the team to be on a par with the club’s history.”
“We will take that process step-by-step and be humble.”
“If you are in the top two of your group you are in the Last 16 and anything can happen. However, we will not underestimate anyone in our group.”
Mourinho also says he believes Benfica are the strongest team in the group, despite their poor start to the Champions League campaign which included a 5-0 defeat to Basel.
“The defeat suffered in Switzerland doesn’t change my opinion that Benfica are our main opponent in this group,” he added.
“Benfica’s bad start in the Champions League doesn’t change the approach to the double match that is at the door.”
“I believe they are better than CSKA Moscow and Basel.”
Victor Lindelof could also be in line to return against his former side. The defender joined United from Benfica in the summer for around £32m, but has not had much of a look in as of yet.
However, the Champions League is a competition the Swede has had more chances in so far this season, with him appearing in the first two games against Basel and CSKA Moscow.
The 23-year-old could well play a part in the match on Wednesday evening, and he still holds a high regard of the team that granted his move to Old Trafford.
“I was happy there and I developed a lot as a player.”
“It was great for me playing at Champions League level – I learned a lot from those games.”
“But when the opportunity came to join Manchester United it was very easy for me to pick that option.”
[Quotes sourced via Daily Star]
Predicted United XI
Valencia – Jones – Lindelof – Darmian
Matic – Herrera
Mata – Mkhitaryan – Martial
Predicted score: 0-2