Jose Mourinho has changed his top four tune at Manchester United, with the Portuguese claiming that no “miracle” is required for the Red Devils to secure Champions League qualification.
Mourinho had been quoted by RedeTV as saying: “This year, as we’re facing even more problems, it proves what I said when the season started: that it would be very tough for us. Now we must try and win as many points as we can. It will take almost a miracle to finish in the top four.”
United are currently seventh in the Premier League table, eight points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal.
An upturn in fortune will be required in order to close that gap, but the Gunners are the next opponents on the Red Devils’ schedule and Mourinho now claims that anything is possible.
“I don’t know if I said it or if I didn’t, but if I used that word it is not what I feel at all,” Mourinho told reporters ahead of a crunch clash at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
“We are 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, not waste points.”
Mourinho added: “Last week, before the Crystal Palace game, I said my target was end of December to be in that position. The target changes but in the sense of 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 the problems that we have. We need some players to perform better than they are, we need to perform better as a team, but far from a miracle.”
While keen to avoid ruling United out of the top-four tussle, Mourinho concedes that the Red Devils may still struggle to secure a lofty finish amid fierce competition for limited places.
The ‘big six’ are all expected to be in the mix come the end of the campaign, as the likes of Everton fade away, but the order in which that pack settles is yet to be determined.
Mourinho said on the challenges to come: “I think Manchester United, in seventh place, I can agree, in spite of the investment Everton made, which was phenomenal.
“Obviously there was a great improvement in that team from last season in relation to this season, but I don’t think Everton will be in front of us at the end of the season.
“There are six teams that should stay in the first six positions. Season after season, two of these teams are staying outside the top four.
“Last season 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? The team with less potential? Who is the team performing not so well?
“These will be the questions and answers around the top six. 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,” Mourinho stated.