Jose Mourinho has backtracked on his claims Manchester United need a miracle to qualify for the Champions League, convinced their position is not that dire.
United stuttered to a 2-2 draw at struggling Southampton on Saturday and even found themselves trailing 2-0 at one point, only rescuing a point thanks to Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera.
It was the third successive Premier League game United had failed to win, leaving them a whopping 16 points behind bitter rivals and pacesetters Manchester City.
The result also left them trailing the Champions League spots by eight points and, in a post-match interview, Mourinho reportedly told Brazilian broadcaster RedeTV that it would be a “miracle” if they qualified for Europe’s elite competition.
Now he has now distanced himself from those remarks and hopes to close in on the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal – United face the latter at Old Trafford on Wednesday – by the end of the month.
“I don’t know if I say or if I didn’t, but if I used that word it’s not what I feel at all,” he told reporters in his pre-match news conference on Tuesday.
“We have 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 [to] waste points we shouldn’t waste. Last week, before the Crystal Palace game, I told my hopes and targets were [that at the] end of December to be in that position [the top four]. The target changed, but in the sense let’s try to close the distance 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 far from a miracle.”
United head into Wednesday’s game seventh in the table, and while he remains confident they will finish the season further up the table, Mourinho highlighted the fact there are six major clubs fighting for four Champions League spots.
When asked if United should never be as low as seventh, he replied: “I think Manchester United, seventh place, I can agree.
“The investment Everton made was phenomenal and obviously there was a great improvement in that team from last season in relation to this, 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, 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 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.”