Jose Mourinho admits Manchester United will have plenty of expectations on their shoulders when they make their return to the Champions League this season.
United secured their passage back into the top table of European football after their success in the Europa League – with some claiming their entry is something of a backdoor qualification after they could only finish sixth in the Premier League.
And Mourinho admits that the Red Devils will have to deal with the weight of history on their shoulders when they return to the competition proper.
“Manchester United are one of the top three football clubs in the world, no doubt about it, but the football club is one thing and the team’s credentials going into a competition are another thing entirely,” said Mourinho.
“We have a giant on our chest, which is really heavy, but we don’t compare our potential to the biggest clubs in Europe right now. We’ll take it step by step and be humble.
“The first step is to try to finish in the top three. If we manage that, we’ll try to finish in the top two. Then, when you’re in the Champions League last 16 draw, anything can happen.
“Because Manchester United is a real giant, it doesn’t matter if the club is somewhat far away from that [top] level for three, four, five or 10 years. It doesn’t matter: the club will always be a giant. But our job is to try to bring the football club back to that stature. That’s really difficult these days.
“Before, the giants were the powerful ones economically, and now there are small clubs in terms of prestige and history, who are giants economically. That changes absolutely everything. I want the team to be on a par with the club’s history, which is something I’ve been lucky enough to feel at every club.
“Last season we won trophies. We’ll improve the team and try to be at that level, to constantly be improving. And I think we’re going to reach that level as a football team in the next couple of years.”