Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho expects his team to have climbed the Premier League table by the end of December as they battle for a Champions League, admitting that simply finishing in the top four is more important right now than any talk of a title race.
United travel to Bournemouth on Saturday, five points adrift of fourth place Arsenal and Mourinho has said he can only think of challenging for the title when his team is in the top four.
Jose: "We have to get the points we need to try to be in a better position by the end of December, where I expect us to be." #MUFC— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 2, 2018
"When you are outside of the top four I don't think you should speak about the title race. I think when you are in top four, which I believe we are going to be, then you can look up," the United boss explained at his Friday press conference via ManUtd.com.
"You can see the distance, you can look to the fixtures, to the calendar, you can look to the situation at the moment, injuries, suspensions, form, and then you can feel it," he added.
"But in this moment we are outside the top four, so I think the point now is to get the points we need and to try to be in [the top four by] the end of December like I expect to be in a better position than we are at this moment."
Unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions, three points and two places better off in the Premier League table than United, and the league's fifth highest scorers, Bournemouth will offer a stern test for Mourinho's side at the Vitality Stadium.
The Portuguese praised their 'fantastic work, great stability', as well as opposite number Eddie Howe and smart Cherries recruitment. Yet he remains optimistic of seeing a good performance from his own players after something of a turnaround in recent weeks.
"Our last couple of weeks was positive - let's say the second half against Newcastle and the match against Chelsea," Mourinho said. "Against Juventus was really hard and the team fought hard, so a part of the result was not a negative performance. Another positive in some moments, a very positive game against Everton. So, the mood is very positive. We are fine."
As far as team news is concerned, Mourinho has confirmed that Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard are available. Sanchez has only managed five minutes since his winning goal against Newcastle three weeks ago, while Lingard made his return as a late substitute against Everton.
Marouane Fellaini is still out, as is Diogo Dalot and Antonio Valencia, with the Ecuadorian's situation getting a rather bizarre summary from the United boss.
"He put something funny on his Instagram. He says he 'work, work, work'. He should say he 'work, work, work alone because I am injured and cannot train with the team'. He is working really, really hard without the ball and without the team," Mourinho said.