Man Utd returning to their "natural habitat" of the Champions League, claims Mourinho

The Portuguese manager will take charge of United's first Champions League game for almost 650 days on Tuesday, when they face Swiss side, FC Basel.

Man Utd returning to their "natural habitat" of the Champions League, claims Mourinho
Photo: John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Manchester United are returning to their "natural habitat" of elite club competition by playing their first UEFA Champions League match for almost two years, according to manager José Mourinho.

The Reds have been sporadically in and out of the tournament since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the great manager whom United qualified for the Champions League under from 1996 to 2013.

Embed from Getty Images

Man United returning to Champions League after 643 days

Mourinho's predecessor Louis van Gaal was sacked, despite lifting the FA Cup, due to a failure to qualify for the competition. Though United finished a lowly sixth last season in the Premier League, out of the Champions League qualification spots, the Reds' victory in the UEFA Europa League gave them automatic access to the group stages.

The Portuguese boss told reporters ahead of United's game against FC Basel that "being back in the Champions League is going back to the natural habitat."

"Manchester United [have been there] season after season. For some player, there's the motivation of playing in it for the first time, so we look forward to the match and I hope also Old Trafford feels it in the same way we are feeling."

Embed from Getty Images

Rashford & Lukaku to play in competition for first time

Club captain Michael Carrick is the only player in United's squad who remains from the club's double-winning 2008 side, who beat Chelsea to win the Champions League in Moscow. Summer signing Romelu Lukaku will make his debut in the competition on Tuesday night, so too will his attacking partner Marcus Rashford, who famously made his United debut in the Europa League with a brace against FC Midtjylland.

Realistically, United will be expected to top their group, having been drawn with Basel, Benfica, and CSKA Moscow. While Mourinho's team remains some way from being able to compete with Europe's best, the quality in the squad means anything but winning Group A will be seen as somewhat disappointing.