'I'd prefer to win the Europa League' - Mourinho plots Man Utd route into the Champions League

The Red Devils are likely to win the competition, according to their former midfielder, who also thinks a top-four Premier League finish will happen

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho claims his preference would be to qualify for the Champions League through a Europa League triumph, if he had to make a choice.

Victory over Middlesbrough on Sunday extended the Red Devils' unbeaten run in the Premier League to 18 matches and kept themin the hunt for a top-four finish.

A passage back to Europe's premier club competition could be secured via their league placing, although winning another piece of silverware- which would also earn a place among the continent's elite- is now Mourinho'spriority.

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"Yeah, big win, because it keeps us alive in the fourth-position race," Mourinho said. "If we don't win today then we lose a chance in relation to Arsenal's defeat, to Manchester City v Liverpool.

"I'd prefer to win the Europa League because it gives us the same, Champions League football, but it gives us a trophy, prestige, a European Super Cup. But maybe we don't win the Europa League. So we have to fight to try to finish fourth. It's a massive victory for us."

Meanwhile, Mourinho has claimed that Aitor Karanka missed out on a big job in favour of remaining loyal to Middlesbrough prior to his departure last week.

Karanka, who worked as Mourinho's assistant at Real Madrid, left the Riverside Stadium by mutual consent on Thursday after four years at the club, with Steve Agnew overseeing Boro's 3-1 home loss to United.

Speaking after inflicting the struggling team's fourth successive defeat, the Portuguese claimed Karanka had previously passed up an enticing opportunity to advance his career.

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"Justice for Karanka is the work he did here," Mourinho told a post-match news conference. "People cannot delete the good things we do in clubs, it doesn't matter what happens.

"I was sacked by Chelsea, people now don't like me, but nobody can go there and delete what I did. Aitor came here, 8,000 people in the stadium, almost going to League One. He keeps them in the division, goes to the playoff final, could leave, decides to stay, gets promotion.

"He could leave the club for better - I know what I'm saying - but he stays for the fans, for the owner [Steve Gibson]. He lost a good opportunity to go to a bigger club. In the end, he loses his job. It's football. I'm sure he wants this team to stay in the division. I don't think he's happy that we won."

Boro caretaker Agnew meanwhile claimed not have seen Rudy Gestede's clash with United defender Eric Bailly in the second half amid suggestions the striker may have motioned to bite his opponent.

"I didn't see anything," hetold reporters. "Obviously I'm picking up that something went on but it's no concern to me."

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And the temporary bossalso shrugged off Mourinho's swift departure from the sidelines in the closing stages.

"[Mourinho] has done that in the past - it's hard to work out his next move. We shook hands in the tunnel."

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