Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has stressed he does not think the club need a miracle to finish in the Premier League’s top four this season — while admitting the target for the end of December has changed.
Results at the weekend, when Mourinho’s men drew 2-2 at Southampton, left seventh-placed United eight points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who they face at Old Trafford tonight.
Mourinho was quoted as saying to Brazilian outlet RedeTV after the game at St Mary’s, when referring to his ambitions for the rest of the season: “Try to win as many points as possible and try almost the miracle to end in fourth.”
When asked about that in a press conference yesterday, Mourinho said: “If I used that word (miracle), it is not what I feel at all. I think we are eight or nine points from fourth. I don’t think we need a miracle at all. I think we need a good run of results, I think we don’t need to waste points where we shouldn’t waste.”
The Southampton result was United’s second successive Premier League draw, with them having been held 0-0 at home by Crystal Palace on November 24.
Mourinho added: “Before the Crystal Palace game I said that my hopes, my targets were to be, in the end of December, in that position.
“The target changed but changed in the sense of let’s try to close the distance as much as we can and try to be by the end of December very close to these positions.
I think far from a miracle. We just need to not be so unlucky with problems that we have. We need some players to perform better than they are, we need, as a team, to perform better than we are. But far from a miracle, not at all.
Ahead of the midweek round of games, Everton are above United in the table in sixth spot. Mourinho was asked what he would say to people who say United should never be in seventh place.
“I think Manchester United, seventh place — I can agree.
“In spite of the investment Everton made, (which) was phenomenal, and obviously there was a great improvement in that team from last season, I don’t think Everton is going to be in front of Manchester United by the end of the season.
“I think, clearly, everybody knows that there are six teams that should, all of them, stay in the first six positions.
“I think at the end of the season, once more, the top six will be done by the six teams that we all know that have that responsibility to finish in the top six.”
Mourinho’s relationship with Paul Pogba has been back in the spotlight in the wake of the Southampton game. Reports have emerged of Mourinho, in front of the players in the dressing room after the match, having called the midfielder a “virus”.
When questioned about that on Tuesday, Mourinho said: “I don’t play the game of the suggestions.
“One thing is an interview I gave to Brazilian television, that you can go there and see what I told. Another thing is to be quoted, quoted by who, how? I don’t speak about that. I don’t play that game.”
Mourinho said yesterday that Phil Jones, Chris Smalling (foot), Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia were not looking ready to play.
Ashley Young (suspension) and Victor Lindelof (muscular injury) are definitely ruled out, and while Matteo Darmian is fit to return, Luke Shaw is a doubt after coming off with a knock in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Southampton.
Romelu Lukaku (knock) is also doubtful but Marcus Rashford is backed to be fit for this contest, while Alexis Sanchez (hamstring) remains sidelined.