Jose Mourinho has given up hope of guiding Manchester United into the top four of the Premier League by the end of the year, and now just wants to get as close to his rivals as possible.
Mourinho distanced himself from comments in a Brazilian TV interview saying it would be ‘a miracle’ if United finished in the Champions League places this season, but admitted that his club have a battle on their hands after slipping eight points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, their opponents at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Indeed, Arsenal – in 2012-13 – are the only Premier League club in the last decade to recover from a worse position than United’s now to finish in the top four.
Jose Mourinho has abandoned his goal to get United into the top four by the end of 2018
The Old Trafford boss had suggested only 11 days ago that he felt the target was realistic – but now, speaking ahead of United’s clash with Arsenal, the Portuguese has backtracked
‘If I used that word (miracle) it’s not what I feel at all,’ said Mourinho. ‘We have like eight or nine points from fourth something like that, I don’t think we need a miracle at all. We need a good run of results, and to not waste points we shouldn’t waste.
‘Last week before the Crystal Palace game I told my hopes and targets were end of December to be in that position. The target changes but in the sense let’s try to close the distance the best we can and be 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 to perform better as a team, but (we need) far from a miracle.’
Ander Herrera and Juan Mata arrive into Carrington for training ahead of the Arsenal clash
David de Gea pulls in too ahead of a massive game for both the club and manager Mourinho
Romelu Lukaku, who ended his goal drought against Southampton, is chauffered into training
Defender Phil Jones started just his second Premier League game of the season on Saturday
Asked if seventh place was unacceptable for a club of United’s stature, Mourinho replied: ‘I think Man 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, but I don’t think Everton will be in front of Manchester United at the end of the season.
‘There are six teams that should stay in the first six positions, but season after season two of these teams are staying outside the top four. For example, last season it was Arsenal and Chelsea. And this season two of these six are going to stay outside.
‘Who is the best team of the six, the team with more potential, less potential, who is the team performing not so well, these will be around the questions and answers. At the end of the season the top six will be done by the six teams we all know have that responsibility to finish in the top six.’
Chris Smalling pulls into the training complex after missing Saints clash with an ankle problem
Luke Shaw, who came off at St Mary’s with an injury problem, waves to the camera
Antonio Valencia has not appeared in a Premier League since the end of September
Jesse Lingard was accused of ‘lacking personality’ by Mourinho in a recent interview
Marcus Rashford, who has endured an inconsistent season, arrives in his Range Rover
When he was asked what United fans are saying to him when he meets them, he added: ‘My life is not a very public life. I’m not a person that is all the time in the street or in contact with the fans, not really.’
United face a resurgent Arsenal who haven’t lost in any competition since August under new manager Unai Emery.
‘It’s not for me to do that analysis,’ said Mourinho, whose players arrived at Carrington on Tuesday morning for final preparations ahead of the game.
‘I have my opinion but keep it for myself. Is this a different Arsenal? Yes, and a very difficult match for us because we are going to play against a good team in a good moment without accumulation of matches because they are playing in the Europa League.
‘When you play in the Europa League you normally play with second choices and give good rest to the players. We have to play to the maximum and it’s an accumulation of matches. Then you arrive in this moment in December and many teams pay the price for that.’
Anthony Martial’s future had looked uncertain in the summer but his own form has improved
Brazilian midfielder Fred has struggled to nail down his place in the side after a summer move
Mourinho has seen his side pick up just two points from their last three league fixtures
IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR JOSE?
With eight points between United and fourth place, and with just six games of the year remaining — including tricky clashes with Arsenal and Liverpool — it probably makes sense for Mourinho to rethink his targets…
Manchester United’s remaining Premier League fixtures for 2018:
Wednesday: Arsenal (h) 8pm
Saturday: Fulham (h) 3pm
16 Dec: Liverpool (a) 4pm
22 Dec: Cardiff City (a) 5.30pm
26 Dec: Huddersfield (h) 3pm
30 Dec: Bournemouth (h) 4.30pm
Season at a glance
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga