Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has accused rival bosses of being “afraid” to publicly target the Premier League title.
Mourinho was happy to describe the Red Devils as challengers for the crown in his first season at Old Trafford but believes others who share his aim are being coy about their ambitions.
The Portuguese, who takes charge for the first time at Bournemouth on Sunday, did not name his targets but it can safely be assumed that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Claudio Ranieri, who has already compared the chances of a Leicester title defence with an alien invasion, feature in his thoughts.
“We feel that we are candidates to win the title,” he said.
“We want to fight for the title, we cannot speak differently. We know that not one or two or three but more than that have the same ambitions.
“Many more think the same way as us but they are afraid to say it. They prefer to play a defensive game in words.
“They prefer to say or to hide or to play defensively with the words, that’s not our way. I don’t think that’s Manchester United.
“I think Manchester United has to say we want to win the title.
“At the end of the season if we are not champions because someone is better than us then great, that’s football. But at Manchester United Football Club you cannot say differently, we have to fight for the title.”
While Mourinho’s arrival has coincided with several big-name signings, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly all joining Paul Pogba in a show of considerable financial force, this week has seen three departures too.
Northern Ireland international Paddy McNair and Donald Love both followed former United boss David Moyes to Sunderland, with winger Adnan Januzaj making the same move on a season-long loan.
Further departures are likely as Mourinho seeks to trim the fat from his first-team squad, but he insisted Januzaj was not being cut adrift.
In doing so he also appeared to aim a swipe at the player’s use by Borussia Dortmund during a mutually unsatisfactory loan spell last season.
“He fits my plans,” said Mourinho.
“That’s why he is on loan at a Premier League club. If he doesn’t fit I don’t care about him, don’t care where he’s going, which club, which competition, which manager.
“Maybe I send him to Borussia Dortmund. Yes, we care about him, we think he is a talented player but to be in the same squad as Martial, Mkhitaryan, Young, Depay would mean not many matches.”
Manchester United fans, after three years veering between disappointment and disenchantment under Moyes and Louis van Gaal, are expecting a change of pace under Mourinho’s management.
After making some significant statements in the transfer market, he is now looking to do so on the pitch – starting on Sunday.
Asked what the club’s followers could expect from his team, he said: “Professionalism, that’s for sure.
“We’re not here to have fun, not here to enjoy the sunny weather. We’re here to work, here to give everything for the club.
“That’s what we promise. The only thing that every Manchester United fan around the world can be sure of is that inside the training ground everybody works.”