Jose Mourinho incredibly claims it would be 'miracle' if Manchester United got into top four this season
Their manager's bleak, blunt assessment seems sure to anger many Old Trafford fans whose MINIMUM expectation every season is qualifying for the Champions League.
But after Saturday's 2-2 comeback draw at Southampton left United seventh in the Premier League – eight points off the top five – Mourinho delivered his most downbeat assessment so far to Brazil’s RedeTV.
The former Chelsea chief said: “Until last year I said that finishing second was a fantastic thing because of the qualities we had in comparison to the quality of the other teams that are fighting for the top four.
"Already last year I said it. And this year with more problems that we have had, it proves what I said at the beginning of the season, that it would be a very difficult season.”
And his modest aim for the season is: “Try to win as many points as possible and try almost the miracle of finishing fourth.”
United have reached the Champions League knock-out stage with a game to spare.
But in the Prem only the bottom five sides have conceded more than the 23 goals let in by Mourinho's men in 14 Prem matches.
United are also 16 points behind leaders and champions Manchester City, and 14 adrift of their other fiercest rivals Liverpool.
Problems over the form, mood and fitness of several players persist, notably record buy Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and the now-crocked Alexis Sanchez.
But Mourinho blamed his squad's lack of defensive cover for their latest leaky display.
He said of the at St Mary's stalemate: “In the absence of more central defenders to play, we had to occupy that area with players who are midfielders, who do not know how to play in defence, who have no characteristics to play in the defence, but who occupied that area in a zonal way, tried to hide the weaknesses that everyone knew we had.”
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