Jose Mourinho believes that Manchester United must focus on reaching the top four before they can consider a title challenge this season.
United find themselves 8th after 10 games, nine points away from pace-setters Manchester City and Liverpool and five behind fourth-placed Arsenal.
Mourinho’s side travel to Bournemouth for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off and does not believe United can entertain thoughts of a title challenge just yet.
“When you are outside the top four I don’t think you should speak about the title race,” he said.
“When you are top four – which I believe we are going to be – 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 top four so the point is now to get the points we need to try and be in the end of December, like I expect to be, in a better position than we are in now at this moment.”
After recent victories over Newcastle United and Everton and a creditable draw away to Chelsea, United appear to be emerging from their difficult start to the campaign.
Mourinho believes United’s run of fixtures up until New Year is a challenging one, but thinks they will continue to improve over the coming weeks.
“I think we will be in a better position [by the end of December],” he said.
“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.
“We had a double fixture away, Burnley and Watford. Now we have a double fixture away, Bournemouth and Manchester City. We will have Juventus away before Manchester City, 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, 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, will be a better position.”