MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – The opening weekend of the Premier League season ended with an emphatic win as Manchester United beat West Ham United 4-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday but manager Jose Mourinho was wary of fuelling talk of his team as title contenders.
With new striker Romelu Lukaku scoring twice and another close-season signing, midfielder Nemanja Matic, making a dominating debut, the win appeared to give credence to United’s placing with many bookmakers as second favourites, behind neighbours Manchester City.
Mourinho played it all down, however, saying: “Last season we were also top of the league in the first match and we finished sixth so this means nothing.
“It just means we played well and confidence levels will be high and now our challenge is to keep these confidence levels,” added the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss, who is starting his second season at Old Trafford.
“We finished the season winning the Europa League and qualifying for the Champions League. We start the second season with a very good performance at home. We had many players on the pitch with a very good game. The fans have reasons to be optimistic.
“But for me, with years and years of experience in the Premier League, my feet are on the ground and I am calm,” he said.
United have not been in title contention since the retirement of Alex Ferguson with the Premier League trophy in his hands in 2013.
There have, though, been false dawns.
In Mourinho’s first game last season, they won 3-1 at Bournemouth, prompting instant talk of a new era after the disappointing Louis van Gaal reign but consistency did not follow and United finished sixth.
Four years ago, in David Moyes’s first match in charge, they won 4-1 at Swansea but their manager did not survive the season as United ended seventh.
Mourinho’s attitude is therefore wise and with 37 games of the season to come — along with a Champions League campaign — he knows there will be moments of doubt and questioning.
Still, there is an air of optimism around Old Trafford and not without reason.
“Many times last season we deserved to win and didn’t so the fact we won the match was the most important thing,” he said, referring to the 10 home draws last term.
“But I think the performance based on the confidence levels was really high. I am not going to say the performance was perfect because it was not. We made our mistakes and have room for improvement but it was a solid performance.
“I liked the attitude in the second half to try and score more goals. After 2-0 we had a period of relaxation and they created a couple of situations in the box but again (we showed) good confidence levels and desire to play until the end,” he said.
Perhaps conscious of criticism of his tactical approach as negative, Mourinho could not resist noting the way his team had finished the game with two late goals.
“The reality is that in the last part of the game, instead of being boring and controlling the game, we scored a third goal and we could enjoy it.”