Jose Mourinho says Manchester United do not need to prove anything at Anfield on Saturday but has warned Liverpool his team are better equipped to win there than they were last season.
United have started their Premier League campaign with six wins and a draw from their first seven games, but only two of those matches have been against teams that finished in the top 10 last season, while the contest against Jurgen Klopp’s side will be their first against another of the big six.
The Anfield clash has been labelled a test of United’s title credentials, though Mourinho disagrees.
“We have to prove nothing,” he told Sky Sports. “We have our objectives for the season, we know where we want to go and how we have to go.
“This is press talk, or pundit talk: ‘We have something to prove, [Romelu] Lukaku has to score, we have to win’ [is what they say]. One match, one result, one performance. That’s not going to change anything.
“You can say, like some people do, we have not played one of the top five teams but last season we did not beat West Ham at home, last season we did not beat Everton at home or Southampton away.”
United left Anfield last season with a point after a goalless draw. They managed just one shot on target and Mourinho was accused of using defensive tactics to spoil the game — although Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a chance to win it in the second half.
Lukaku will lead the line against Liverpool this time after he proved his fitness with a 23-minute runout and a goal in Belgium’s 4-0 win over Cyprus on Tuesday.
And the striker, who has scored 11 goals in 10 games since arriving at Old Trafford in the summer from Everton, is one reason Mourinho says this team is better than the one that lined up at Anfield last season.
“I think we are a better team [than we were],” he said. “I think it would be unfair to say Lukaku and [Nemanja] Matic did not make an impact, we have to admit that and give them what they deserve. But also the team give Matic and Lukaku the conditions to arrive the way they have.
“Globally we are a better team — does that mean we are going to be as successful as last season, winning two titles? I don’t know. But we are better.”
Mourinho has a good record at Anfield in the Premier League, losing just one of his seven visits, while winning four and drawing two.
Chelsea’s 2-0 victory at Anfield in April 2014, aided by Steven Gerrard’s slip, was a hammer blow to Liverpool’s title chances, with Manchester City going on to win it.
Mourinho added: “I like to play against the best teams, I like to play against the best clubs and I like to play at the best stadiums — the stadiums with more history. At Anfield I’ve had great moments and I’ve had bad moments. They have had happiness against me, they have had very sad moments against me.
“It’s for three points, not four. Maybe if we were in a moment of the season where it was a duel between two teams it would mean more, but it’s not the case. At the same time, in these kinds of matches, every single moment plays a part. We are playing against a good team with very good players.”