Manchester United are one of the favourites to win the Europa League following their Champions League exit at the hands of RB Leipzig on Tuesday, Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho said on Wednesday.
United needed a draw to qualify for the last 16 but were punished for a sloppy start and slumped to a 3-2 defeat, a result that left them third in the group to ensure they drop down to Europe’s second-tier competition.
“The teams that drop from the Champions League are strong and normally don’t belong to the level of the Europa League,” Mourinho, who guided United to the Europa League trophy in 2017, told reporters ahead of Thursday’s home game against Antwerp.
“United are one of the top teams. The group was very hard with Paris St Germain and Leipzig. We knew it was not going to be easy for any of them.”
The other Group H game, between PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir at Parc des Princes, was suspended in the 13th minute when fourth official Sebastian Coltescu was accused of directing a racist term towards the Turkish club’s assistant coach.
Mourinho, condemning the incident, said the game would go down in history for all the wrong reasons.
“Every form of racism has to be fought and never accepted,” he said. “To be involved, indirectly, not directly in the game that will become quite iconic is not a nice thing. The fourth official only he can express his feelings.
“Of course, he made an unacceptable mistake but only he can open his heart, apologise and accept the consequences.”
Mourinho said full back Serge Aurier will miss the game against Antwerp and midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg could be rested but France midfielder Tanguy Ndombele is fit and in line to start.
Spurs are second in Group J with 10 points but can leapfrog Antwerp to top spot with a victory.