Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has reiterated his belief that it would not be a miracle for the club to finish in the Premier League’s top four this season.
The 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 on Wednesday.
Mourinho was quoted as saying to Brazilian outlet RedeTV after the Southampton game, when referring to his ambitions for the rest of the season: “Try almost the miracle to end in fourth.”
When asked about his comment during a press conference on Tuesday, Mourinho said: “I don’t know if I said that or if I didn’t. But 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.”
He added: “Before the Crystal Palace game (a goalless home draw on November 24) 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 we 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 place.
Mourinho was asked what he would say to people who say United should never be in seventh place.
And he said: “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 come back under the spotlight again in the wake of the Southampton game.
Reports have emerged of a post-match dressing room exchange between the pair in which Mourinho is said to have called Pogba 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.”
Arsenal meanwhile produced their best display yet under Unai Emery in their weekend victory over Tottenham but the Spaniard said they would have to prove their mettle again at Old Trafford.
Arsenal beat Spurs 4-2 at home to leapfrog their north London rivals into fourth spot on goal difference with 30 points but Emery believes improving his team’s away performance is vital if they are to continue their good form.
“If we’re stronger now, we need to show it on Wednesday… It’s a new match, a new challenge, a big challenge. It’s away and we need to continue improving our mentality away,” Emery told a news conference.
“We know we need to change to get more competitive away. I think the team is doing that, but it’s Manchester United away, and the challenge is bigger than other matches.
“It’s a very exciting match. The preparation for this match is also a big motivation for us. It gives me a big motivation for Wednesday.”
Arsenal’s win over Tottenham extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 19 games and the fans have started to believe the club can win their first league crown since they lifted the title in the 2003-04 season under Arsene Wenger.
“I want to think about the possibility, maybe not this year, of a title with Arsenal,” Emery added.
“The Premier League is the first competition for us but the Europa League is exciting and we also have the Carabao (League and FA Cups. It’s about progress, improving and our demands.”