MANCHESTER — Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes Chelsea should be strong enough to challenge for the Premier League title this season despite Antonio Conte’s claims that his squad is too small.
Conte said on the eve of the new campaign he “needed more players” at Stamford Bridge and was expecting “the most difficult season” of his managerial career.
Chelsea started their title defence with a 3-2 defeat to Burnley. However Mourinho insists last season’s triumph should mean his former club are favourites to retain their crown. And he believes the arrivals of Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata for a combined £132 million should compensate for the loss of Nemanja Matic, John Terry and Diego Costa.
Conte has also been linked with a £40m move for Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater, a deal Mourinho seemed to suggest could be close.
Mourinho said: “When people say, for example, Chelsea lost an important midfield player, if you lose one but you buy Bakayoko and Drinkwater for example, what’s the problem?
“The problem is when you sell and you don’t buy. When you sell and you keep buying, what’s the problem?
“You are probably even stronger so I think every top team in the Premier League is strong enough, is potentially strong enough with the financial situation to be fighting for everything and when everybody is also in Europe, five in the Champions League and then two in the Europa League, you have the top seven teams playing for everything and all of them are strong.”
United head into the second weekend of the season top of the table after their 4-0 win over West Ham.
But ahead of the trip to Swansea, Mourinho insists Chelsea, who play Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday, are still favourites.
He added: “For me the favourite is the champion. Always. It doesn’t mean you are going to win it but I think it is the stamp that you have when you are champion, it is that the next season you are the favourite.”
At his press conference on Friday, Mourinho conceded he may not get a fourth signing before the transfer deadline on Aug. 31.
But while Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham are facing battles to keep hold of Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho and Danny Rose, the United manager insists his squad is “stable.”
However, he does not view the transfer turmoil engulfing United’s rivals as a particular advantage.
And he insists Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea will have no excuses if they do not challenge this season.
He said: “If they have problems, the problems are going to finish in a couple of weeks because in a couple of weeks the market is closed and they don’t have problems anymore.
“If they have, and I don’t know if they have, but if they have, in a couple of weeks the problems are over. They have very good teams, very good players and I don’t see any reason for them not to be fighting for the title.”