MANCHESTER, March 12 – Jose Mourinho is confident Inter Milan will bounce back from the disappointment of their Champions League exit and go on to claim a fourth consecutive Serie A title.
Given that Inter currently stand seven points clear of Juventus at the top of the Italian top flight, few would disagree with that view.
But whether Mourinho sticks around for the defence of the Scudetto is another question altogether.
Everything about the former Chelsea manager’s demeanour during his time in Manchester suggested that he would find it hard to resist an attractive offer to return to the Premier League.
Manchester City, where the position of Mark Hughes appears fragile, looks the most likely possibility but it is not inconceivable that Liverpool could be looking for a new manager by the summer given the current uncertainty over the future of Rafael Benitez.
Mourinho however insisted that such thoughts have not entered his head and that his focus is entirely on delivering the title for Inter.
"We have not been good enough to win the Champions League but we are good enough to win the Scudetto and I’m sure we will go on and win it," he said.
Having initially denied that he had said he would be interested in succeeding Manchester United boss Sir Alex
Ferguson, the Portuguese promptly refuelled speculation on the subject by claiming, ahead of Wednesday’s match, that he felt "at home" at Old Trafford.
Neither was Mourinho’s performance at the post-match press conference following Inter’s 2-0 defeat by United particularly reassuring for the Milan club’s fans.
Irked by an Italian reporter’s suggestion that he had been brought to Inter to deliver victory in the Champions League, Mourinho snapped: "I understand the question, not the speech that preceded it."
An uneasy relationship with the Milanese press is only one of Mourinho’s problems.
Winning a third consecutive title last season did not prevent Inter President Massimo Moratti from sacking Roberto Mancini to make way for Mourinho, who was billed as the man to take the club on to another level.
Asked if he expected to be summoned to explain himself, Mourinho said he would be seeking out Moratti to explain exactly why Inter had fallen short again on the biggest stage.
"Ultimately I’m accountable to him, not to you," Mourinho told his press critics.
"All I can say is that all my players did absolutely everything they possibly could do. They should not be criticised or questioned. We played a very good game, we really played to our full potential.
Mourinho said he would be telling Moratti what needs to be done to make Inter a match for the likes of United.
"You can’t just turn up and expect to win the Champions League just like that. One way is to spend a huge amount of money, which we know is not realistic in the current climate. The second way is to build a team over the course of time.
"Chelsea lost three semis before getting to last year’s final. It is a process and getting to the top is a consequence of the hard work you put in."
Despite bemoaning his side’s poor luck, Mourinho did not dispute that United had been better than his side over the two legs.
"They scored two goals over the course of the two games and we have to accept that, in football, the team that wins always deserves it.
"But I don’t think we should be negative about my team’s display. We played a great match against a great team. We just lacked that little bit of luck you need to win, that little thing that makes difference between winning and not winning."