LONDON – Jose Mourinho explained how happy he was with his Manchester United project on Friday, acknowledging it was “easy to feel at home” with one of the world’s biggest clubs.
It was not the most comfortable, nor consistent, of starts for Mourinho at Old Trafford, as he struggled to find his best team and the Portuguese coach often cut a distracted figure as he bemoaned the pitfalls of living alone in his Manchester hotel.
But after an impressive spell for his expensively assembled team, and now with a largely injury-free squad bearing a settled look, Mourinho is looking forward to his first festive season at United with a touch of his old unassailable confidence.
“The people want to be happy again,” Mourinho told a news conference on Friday, with his side sitting in sixth place in the Premier League. “So five or six months here, (I was) really feeling at home so it was quite easy.
“Obviously, expectations are high, results up and down and we are in a position that is not where we want to be, but in terms of passion for my work and my new club, I’m feeling really happy here.”
On Monday, former United manager David Moyes, who along with his successor Louis van Gaal found Alex Ferguson too hard of an act to follow, will make his return to Old Trafford with his struggling Sunderland team.
While Mourinho faced a similarly stuttering start to his tenure with United, he has guided the club to within four points of the top four in the Premier League, and into the last 32 of the Europa League, on the back of 10 undefeated matches.
Revealing he had never spoken to Moyes about the United job, Mourinho recalled how he felt about finally landing a role he coveted.
“For me it was a difficult job but easy to feel at home, easy to feel good in the club, easy to feel the club has progressed,” he said.
With practically a full squad available to him for the congested holiday program, Mourinho again queried the fairness of United facing a tighter schedule than first-place Chelsea, which has a 13-point edge on Mourinho’s group.
“The busy period is for some clubs, not for everyone, because when you analyze, there is no congestion for them (Chelsea),” Mourinho said.
“The fixtures are chosen to give some rest for some and create problems for others but we are used to it because we are in the Europa League, which creates more difficulties. So it is just more of the same.”
Celtic keeps rolling
Hamilton Scotland AFP-JIJI
Ten-man Celtic gave fans some Christmas cheer by beating Hamilton 3-0 on Saturday to maintain a 14-point lead atop the Scottish Premiership.
Leigh Griffiths scored on the stroke of halftime, before Callum McGregor saw a red card a minute after the interval for his second bookable offense.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Stuart Armstrong and substitute Moussa Dembele added to Celtic’s tally in the second half.
“We were presented with a challenge going down to 10 men for the first time this season, which I thought was an awful decision by the referee,” said Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.
“The kid is hugely disappointed, but there’s no fault of his on that one.”
Rangers, Celtic’s fierce rivals, carved out a narrow 1-0 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Ibrox to strengthen their grip on second place.
Mark Warburton’s side moved seven points clear of Aberdeen, which won 3-1 at Motherwell on Friday.