Football: 'United may miss top-4 cut'

Jose Mourinho
Jose MourinhoPHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho cites EPL's tough competition for his claim but is happy to stay for the long term

LONDON • Jose Mourinho has conceded that Manchester United are at risk of missing out on the top four due to the competitive nature of the English Premier League.

However, the Portuguese refused to limit his side's ambition, insisting they can finish better than that.

The English football club are currently sixth in the table following three straight wins, four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal as they enter the busy Christmas period.

They finished outside the Champions League places under Louis van Gaal last term, and, with competition fierce among the "top six" this season, Mourinho is fearful his side may not make the European cut for another season.

"We have the risk of not finishing fourth because the competition is so hard and the top teams have the same ambitions as we have," the United manager told Sky Sports.

NOT DONE YET

I'm too young, (have) too many years of football to go to a place like China. I want to stay in the place where it is most difficult to win.

JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, on a possible move to China to manage in the Chinese Super League.

"So I don't want to say fourth or third or fifth. Let's see where we finish, but I think we can do better than fourth."

Mourinho has endured a mixed opening five months to his time at Old Trafford, but looks to have found the formula for success in the last three games.

However, the 53-year-old said he never deviated too far from his principles when things were not going according to plan.

He believes his team are working hard to achieve success in the style desired by the United fans.

"Obviously we need to work and work, improve and improve, but footballing ideas, principles of play, the way we want to defend and attack is clear," Mourinho said.

"It's something we believe, and is something the players are very happy with, and it's something we didn't change because the results were not good."

Despite his trying times at United, the manager appeared keen to continue his stay. But on Wednesday, he played down reports that he is set to be offered a new contract.

  • MOURINHO'S FIRST FIVE MONTHS AT MAN UNITED

  • PREMIER LEAGUE

    6th (P17 W8 D6 L3)

    EUROPA LEAGUE

    Last 32 (Group: P6 W4 D0 L2)

    LEAGUE CUP

    Semi-final v Hull City (Previous rounds: P3 W3)

    FA CUP

    3rd round v Reading

In July, he signed a three-year contract when he succeeded van Gaal. On Tuesday, several British newspapers reported that United were already considering offering him a new deal, but he said the stories were news to him.

"They didn't (offer a new contract) and I'm not expecting them to, because they gave me a three-year contract and were being super supportive," he told Sky Sports News.

"They always gave me the feeling three years was not the time I was going to stay and I got the feeling I was going to stay for more time.

"They know if one day they bring the contract I will sign, because I love it here."

Asked whether a mega-money move to the Chinese Super League might appeal to him, he said: "China money is attractive, but I love my football at the highest level.

"I'm too young, (have) too many years of football to go to a place like China. I want to stay in the place where it is most difficult to win."

While Mourinho is keen to stay on, Morgan Schneiderlin appears to be on his way out.

West Bromwich Albion have reportedly lodged a club-record £20 million (S$35.7 million) bid for the midfielder yesterday after they held talks with United officials.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2016, with the headline ''United may miss top-4 cut''. Print Edition | Subscribe