After missing out on qualification last term, Manchester United are back in the Champions League – but Jose Mourinho is not expecting too much.
United qualified for Europe’s premier club competition via the back door of victory in the Europa League, and it was a route they needed after finishing sixth in the Premier League.
Even the most ardent Red Devil follower would have to admit that their side are a long way below the elite teams in Europe. 188BET have United priced up at 13.0 for Champions League glory. That’s joint fifth favourite, and seems a shade short given the likes of Juventus, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid are longer in the betting.
Mourinho is never one to shout from the rooftops, even if his side are well fancied, so it’s no surprise that he wanted to deflect attention away from a Champions League challenge in his pre-match press conference ahead of their opening group game against Swiss Side Basel.
“In the Champions League there are four or five teams with an incredible level of quality, of experience, of know-how. That’s what makes the difference,” said Mourinho, per the Daily Mail. “We have to try to go to the last 16 and enjoy that special knockout phase with the best teams in Europe. To be back is just to go back to the natural habitat for Manchester United.”
Although playing down his side’s chances of going all the way in the Champions League, qualification from the group stage will be the absolute minimum.
The draw fell kindly for United, with Basel, CSKA Moscow and Benfica alongside them in Group A.
If United want to make a mark in Europe, it will have to be done on the back of their home form. Opening up against Basel is advantageous for the Red Devils, as it hands them the chance to kick off on a positive note.
Their record at Old Trafford in Europe is an enviable one, as they are unbeaten in their last 18 European home matches, dating back to a defeat to Real Madrid in March 2013.
188BET have United chalked up at 1.22 to secure the win, and with the Red Devils starting the Premier League campaign in excellent form it looks the right price.
Raphael Wicky’s Basel will look to play, but United’s power-packed midfield and pacey attack will prove too much for the Swiss side.
Benfica and CSKA Moscow will prove stubborn opponents for Mourinho’s side, but qualification from the group stage should be secured.
Whether they go any further than the round of 16 will depend on what sort of draw they get, if they advance from the group stage, but 188BET’s price of 2.85 for the club to be knocked out in the last 16 looks the most likely at this early stage.