Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said he would prefer to win the Europa League this season than finish in the top four of the Premier League, even if his side will be fighting their hardest to do both.
United, who won the League Cup last month, moved up to fifth in the league, four points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, with a 3-1 league win at Middlesbrough on Sunday.
They face Anderlecht next month in the Europa League quarter-finals.
“If I can choose, I will choose the Europa League rather than to finish fourth because it gives us the same – Champions League football,” the 54-year-old told the club website.
“It is a trophy, it is prestige, it is Europe and it means playing a European Super Cup fixture next year.”
The Portuguese manager acknowledged the importance of a top-four finish but said the club’s rivals had a distinct advantage in not having to campaign on both European and domestic fronts heading into the final stretch of the season.
“I know Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City do not play in Europe, they only have one match per week,” he added.
“But we are going to fight like we did (against Middlesbrough).”
“We had to think that [certain players] were fresh because they didn’t play and some played against Rostov so are tired. For example, I played Valencia in that [higher position] to protect him.
Then Jones and Smalling were tired so I brought on an extra defender to give them a little bit of comfort and support.
Mata, I knew could not play 90 minutes so we had to think about all these things at the same time. But the team was solid, compact and was very dangerous, especially in the first half before the goal.
We had three big chances to score before the goal and I think we caused them lots of problems. It is normal they have a reaction; they are fighting for relegation for every point, but we deserved to win.”