MANCHESTER, England — Jose Mourinho has said Manchester United can only start to think about a title challenge once they have clawed their way back into the top four.
United face Bournemouth on Saturday and are nine points behind leaders Manchester City and Liverpool and five points off the Champions League places.
“When you are outside the top four I don’t think you should speak about the title,” Mourinho told a news conference on Friday.
“When you are top four you can look up, see the distance, look to the fixtures, to the calendar, you can look to the situation at the moment, injuries, suspension, form and then you can feel it.
“But in this moment we are outside the top four so the point is now to get the points we need to try and be at the end of December in a better position than we are in now at this moment.”
United head to Bournemouth eighth in the table after 10 games.
It is the first of three away games in the next week that also includes trips to Juventus and Manchester City and the second time this season that Mourinho’s team face a run of three consecutive fixtures away from Old Trafford, something he said has affected United’s start to the campaign.
“I always say that in the end of the season you play 19 matches at home and away and it doesn’t matter when, but the reality is that the way the fixtures are coming sometimes they have an influence in the moment,” he said.
“We had a double fixture away at Burnley and Watford, now we have a double fixture at Bournemouth and Manchester City.
“We will have Juventus away before Manchester City and we will have Valencia away before Liverpool.
“In this part of the season we play away against possibly the three biggest candidates for the title — Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City — so the calendar was not nice to us but I think by the end of December, which is the end of the first half of the Premier League, we are not going to be in the position we are now. We will be a better position.”
Mourinho will again be without Marouane Fellaini, Diogo Dalot and Antonio Valencia against Bournemouth but Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez are in contention to start after being named on the bench for the 2-1 win over Everton.
“I watched something funny in [Valencia’s] Instagram where he says ‘work, work, work in the gym,'” Mourinho said.
“He should say ‘work, work, work alone because I am injured and cannot train with the team.’
“He couldn’t train with the team so I think it looked like he was working really, really hard and he was but without the ball and without the team so you can imagine he is not selected [against Bournemouth because he is not ready].
“Apart from Antonio, [both] Fellaini and Dalot [are unavailable].
“Jesse and Alexis are in a much better position because last week was an effort for them to be available for the team but now it is a different story and Alexis and Lingard after one good week, they are ready to play.