Jose Mourinho: Man United must be better to win title next season
MANCHESTER -- Jose Mourinho has said Manchester United will have to "improve a lot" if they are to wrest the title back from Manchester City next season.
Mourinho has all but conceded that the trophy is heading to the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola's team 15 points clear and 13 games remaining.
But the United manager called on his players to use Sir Alex Ferguson's 2007 champions as inspiration ahead of next season.
Ferguson's team won the title 11 years ago a year after Chelsea, then managed by Mourinho, finished eight points clear of the chasing pack to win a second successive championship.
And the manager told a news conference on Friday: "I always remember when Sir Alex said in 2005-06 -- we won the second title with Chelsea -- we need to improve a lot because they have raised the bar to such a level.
"Chelsea won two titles in a row, the second title was easier than the first and then the biggest manager in the Premier League said Manchester United needed to improve a lot.
"That was the click for the improvement of the team. In 2006-2007, Manchester United won the title back. It has to be like that."
United could be 18 points adrift by the time they face Huddersfield at Old Trafford on Saturday, with City playing Burnley in the day's early kick-off at Turf Moor.
Mourinho is still targeting silverware this season, either the FA Cup or the Champions League.
But he said United's remaining league games were also important if only to prepare the players for a more sustained title challenge next season.
He added: "It is not just about the points and finishing in the top four, which is important.
"Try to finish second. Try to play the best we can and improve the players individually and be the best possible team at the end of the season.
"Then we must try to start next season in a good way, like we did this season, but try to be consistent and try not to lose points like we did this season in some matches where we shouldn't."
This week saw City's lead at the top increase from 12 to 15 points after they beat West Brom 3-0 on Wednesday while United were falling to a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham.
The result at Wembley might have been different had Tottenham's opener after 11 seconds been disallowed because Harry Kane was encroaching in United's half.
But Mourinho said: "I say that I am happy with the level of performance I am having with referees.
"Sometimes mistakes happen. In the last match against Tottenham, the first goal is not legal. Harry Kane was five metres inside our half.
"Because of that am I going to say the referee was bad? No way. We were bad. Am I going to blame the linesman because he didn't see it? No way.
"I repeat, sometimes I was frustrated with some decisions but I am happy with the level of performance the referees are having with us."
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.