Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United still face a fight to secure a top-four finish, never mind sealing second spot.
The inevitable became official on Sunday as Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title without kicking a ball, thanks to rock-bottom West Brom’s shock 1-0 win at Old Trafford.
United were a shadow of the side that stormed back to win the Manchester derby the previous weekend, leading boss Mourinho to say he would drop floundering stars for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham.
Before that trip to Wembley comes a league match at Bournemouth, which takes on more significance in the wake of the loss to the Baggies.
United can use their game in hand to stretch their lead over third-place Liverpool to four points and all but seal Champions League qualification, which Mourinho believes is up in the air as fifth-placed Chelsea look to kick on.
“We lost three points,” Mourinho said of the defeat to West Brom.
“We lost three points that could give us great stability for the second position.
“Now we still have the fourth position to fight for because Chelsea won (at Southampton on Saturday) and we lost, so we still have to fight for top four.”
Mourinho’s former club are 11 points behind United with five matches to play ahead of tonight’s game, where the composition of the Portuguese’s starting line-up and squad will be interesting.
Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, and Ander Herrera performed poorly against the Baggies, so may well be twitchy after Mourinho’s cutting post-match remarks.
Juan Mata was another unable to make an impact on Sunday and is looking for a response.
“Second position was not done before the game,” Mata told MUTV.
“It was not done even if we won, so losing — it’s even more important the next game. We know that we have to compete until the last week.
“It has been a long season, but we need to make sure we can compete until the end.”
Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, and Scott McTominay were unused substitutes in Sunday’s loss and will hope to be involved on the south coast.
Marouane Fellaini, Matteo Darmian, Eric Bailly, Michael Carrick, and Luke Shaw were absent from the squad that hosted West Brom, while Daley Blind is back in training and pushing for a recall.
For his part, Eddie Howe has warned his Bournemouth players against believing they are safe from relegation after fearing they have been influenced by “outside noise”.
Following last month’s 2-1 victory over West Brom the perception grew their Premier League status was secure, and that they have since drawn twice and most recently lost to Liverpool has contributed to Howe becoming concerned his squad has relaxed.
Howe said: “After the West Brom game everyone had us down as safe, in the media, and no matter how much I bang on to the players about certain things, that will seep into the subconscious.
“You can’t take your foot off the pedal for a second in this league because you get punished. A lot of outside noise will get through to the players and I understand it, but we have to have a better mentality than that to make sure it doesn’t affect us.”
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