As belief grows at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho feels Manchester United can achieve a higher finish than fourth spot in the Premier League.
Lured to Manchester to restore the glory days following several seasons of underachieving since Alex Ferguson’s title-winning farewell in 2013, Mourinho’s side are showing signs of life after a stuttering start to the campaign.
Having gone eight top-flight games unbeaten, United find themselves only four points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal and seven behind Liverpool, who are second in the standings after 17 games.
While he refused to set a definitive target amid fierce competition, United manager Mourinho is quietly confident of a strong finish.
“For me to be happy, it’s an accumulation of factors. For me to be happy is the way we end the season playing, the evolution of the team, the empathy with the supporters, the results in many different competitions we are playing,” Mourinho told Sky Sports ahead of the Boxing Day visit of Sunderland.
“So let’s see where we finish, I don’t want to say fourth, because I think we can do better than fourth.
“But 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. So I don’t want to say fourth or third or fifth.”
Mourinho added: “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.
“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.
“And that makes the concept even stronger, because when you win matches the results convince you that what you are doing is right, and when you are not winning you must have a deep feeling to be convinced that you are going in the right direction.
“Many results that we conceded were bad results, even with that unbeaten run, we conceded draws at home, Burnley, Arsenal, West Ham. But the bad results didn’t make us change our idea and our direction. So we are fine.
“I cannot say this season is to build a team, this season is to play well, this season doesn’t matter if you finish fourth or seventh. Seventh is one thing and fourth is another thing, and we still have objectives.”