Jose Mourinho admits there can be no arguing with Manchester City’s dominant Premier League campaign in 2017-18 and fears it will be tough for Manchester United to close the gap.
Pep Guardiola’s champions are 19 points clear of second-placed United heading into Sunday’s final round of matches.
A win against Southampton will see them set Premier League records of 16 victories and 50 points earned away from home in a single campaign.
City have already set a new best tally of wins (31) and goals scored (105) and they will break United’s record for the biggest winning margin at the top of the table if they keep the gap at 19 points.
Given the spectacular nature of their form this season, Mourinho concedes City fully deserve to be champions and says United “are going to try” to challenge next term.
“The difference of points tells a lot,” he said ahead of United’s clash with Watford at Old Trafford. “I always think that in the championships, the truth is always there. In knockout competitions, you can have a bad day. Sometimes, in a lucky or unlucky moment, sometimes the truth is not always there.
“But in championships with 38 matches, the reality is always the reality of the numbers. And the reality of the numbers is that between second and fifth, there is three or four or five points, I don’t know. But the difference between first and second is a difference of 17 points or something like that. That’s the reality of the numbers.
“Can we close that gap in one season with a very difficult market, an absolutely difficult market? We are going to try.”
United’s 0-0 draw with West Ham on Thursday guaranteed they will finish second – their highest league finish since they last won the title back in 2012-13.
With an FA Cup final against Chelsea to come, Mourinho is happy his players showed sufficient commitment to end the season on a positive note, although he does not think their achievements are “enough to celebrate”.
“I’m happy. I’m happy because it was the position that was available since October or November,” he said.
“Two things can happen to the club like us: one would be ‘I cannot be first and I’m not professional and I’m not committed. I have no pride, and for me it’s the same to finish second, third or fourth’. The other way was ‘this is the position that is available and we are going for it’.
“That was what I told the players: imagine in this match [against West Ham] we need a point to be champions. Do we get that point or do we not get that point? And everybody told me we would get that point. So, if we get that point to finish first, we have to get that point to finish second, based on a relationship of professionalism and honesty and pride that we play for. And we managed to finish second.
“That’s very positive considering we can jump the wall of the 80 points if we beat Watford. The two major competitions, the domestic competitions of this country, we are at the least the second best in both. So, we are the second best in the Premier League and we are one of the two best in the FA Cup.
“Is it enough to celebrate? No, not for me. But we did our job the best we could and now I think the boys can feel they did a positive Premier League, of course much better than last season.”