José Mourinho claimed more investment is needed at Manchester United to bridge the gap to the Champions League's big hitters after his side slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus at Old Trafford.
United lost their first Group H match thanks to a 17th-minute Paulo Dybala goal but remain second on four points, five behind Juve, and two ahead of Valencia.
Yet Mourinho was clear that United are inferior to the best sides on the continent and further investment is needed despite the manager having spent close to £400m in his five transfer windows at the club.
"They had Gonzalo Higuaín, Mario Mandzukic, Dybala and want more. They want Cristiano Ronaldo. They had Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele Rugani – they are not happy, they want more, they want Leonardo Bonucci and they go for the best players in the world. So: big club with a big past but with also a big desire to have a big future."
Asked if this was the kind of investment United required, Mourinho said. “To go to the Juventus level? Barcelona level? Real Madrid level? Manchester City level? How can you reach this level? Yes [by buying the best players]. It is not easy because many of the players they belong to these top teams, so we work with what we have and we try to improve with what we have.
"For example today – I saw the amazing Chiellini and amazing Bonucci but I have to say Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf had a very positive game [also at centre-back]. It is the first time Victor plays a game of this dimension and Victor had a positive game; Luke Shaw also in the Champions League at this level of match.
"So good experience for some of the boys – Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial. Romelu Lukaku – I think it is the second season he plays Champions League too. So we work, we try to improve our players but quality is quality. Juventus were at a different level of quality, stability, experience and knowhow. And, again, I repeat: quality in football is everywhere. When I say quality I don't say just a creative player or just a beautiful player. . . Chiellini and Bonucci were beautiful, absolutely beautiful. But my boys, I'm so happy with what they did."
The United manager did admit concern at Lukaku’s form, the number nine having not scored for his club since mid-September. “Yeah – no criticism of him at all, [I have]c omplete understanding that the player is a fantastic professional that wants to give everything,” Mourinho said. “But I have to agree his moment is not sweet. Not just with the goals he is not scoring but in his confidence, movement, touch.
“He is not linking the game well with the team but he’s our striker and a good striker and a striker we believe in. Could I play Rashford there? But then I don’t have a winger because in this moment we are in a difficult situation [with injuries]. He is a hard-working guy but one day the goal will arrive and the confidence will be back.
“I think our attacking players did not have, what I say in a funny way, honey in their feet tonight. Things were not happening but everybody tried, everyone was strong mentally and tried until the end.”
Mourinho, who had partly walked to the ground owing to traffic problems before the match, did not make one substitution. He said: “The only attacking option I had was an 18-year-old lad [Tahith Chong] who I had never played before. You can’t expect a young kid to play, so that’s why we didn’t make any changes.”