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José Mourinho has retracted his claim that Manchester United now need “a miracle” to finish in the top four, but opted against making any firm predictions other than to say he was confident his team would finish above Everton.
Mourinho’s team are currently in seventh place, 16 points off Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table and eight adrift from the Champions League qualifying places. Arsenal are the visitors to Old Trafford on Wednesday and United go into the game on the back of damaging reports that Mourinho called Paul Pogba “a virus” during a dressing-room outburst after the 2-2 draw against Southampton on Saturday.
Any questions on that subject were knocked by Mourinho at a press conference on Tuesday when he was also asked about an interview he had given to Brazilian television in which he had said the team now needed a miracle to reach the top four.
“I don’t know if I said [that] or if I didn’t, but if I used that word it is not what I feel at all. I don’t think we need a miracle at all. We need a good run of results and I think we need not to waste points where we shouldn’t waste.
“Last week before the Crystal Palace game I said my hopes and targets were by the end of December to be in that [fourth] position. The target has changed in the sense of ‘let’s try to close the distance as much as we can and try by the end of December to be very close to these positions’. I think, far from a miracle, we just need to not to be so unlucky with the problems that we have. We need some players to perform better than they are and we need to perform better as a team than we are, but far from a miracle – not at all.”
Of the alleged outburst at Pogba, Mourinho said: “I quoted one thing in an interview I gave to Brazilian TV and you can go there and see what I said. But it’s another thing to be quoted [indirectly] – by who? Or how? I don’t play that game. I don’t play the game of the suggest.”
Mourinho was asked whether a team with United’s ambitions should ever find themselves in seventh position at this stage of the season. “I can agree,” he said, noting that Everton are above them in sixth. “The investment Everton made was phenomenal and obviously there is 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, and two of these teams are staying outside the top four. For example, last season it was Arsenal and Chelsea. 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.”