Jose Mourinho mentioned after the draw with Southampton it might take “a miracle” for Manchester United to end in the top four of the Premier League this season after which, three days later, mentioned he hadn’t meant that in any respect.
However whether or not he needs to admit it or not, it’s going to take a monumental effort to recover from the road from right here. And after United’s govt vice-chairman Ed Woodward axed each David Moyes and Louis van Gaal the second Champions League soccer was out of attain, it raises the query about what occurs to Mourinho in the summer season ought to he fall wanting the minimal requirement.
The two-2 draw with Arsenal at Previous Trafford on Wednesday — extending their winless run in the league to four — left United with 23 factors from their first 15 video games and eight factors adrift of fourth place.
Over the past decade, solely two groups have recovered from a worse begin to finish the season in the top four — Arsenal in 2012-13 and once more in 2014-15. In 2012-13, Arsenal collected 21 factors from their first 15 video games. In 2014-15, it was 23 — the identical as United have now.
Crucially, although, on each these events the hole was not as large because the one United are dealing with. In 2012, Arsenal have been 10th after 15 video games and 5 factors off fourth place. Two years later they have been sixth and simply four factors off the tempo.
It means United have a mountain to climb if they need to play Champions League soccer subsequent season. For Mourinho, the prize could be his job.
In 2014, Moyes was sacked after a defeat to Everton at Goodison Park meant the top four was, lastly, mathematically out of sight. Van Gaal was allowed to lead his crew out at Wembley for the FA Cup last towards Crystal Palace however was dismissed days later after a league marketing campaign that had seen United end fifth — edged out by Manchester Metropolis on aim distinction.
Sources have advised ESPN FC that Mourinho, who has a contract till no less than 2020, nonetheless has the backing of Woodward and the board however they have often drawn a line in the sand when it comes to Champions League qualification. The precedent with managers has been set.
For context, Mourinho’s United are solely a degree higher off than they have been underneath Moyes on the identical stage in 2013. The season Van Gaal was sacked, the Dutchman amassed 29 factors from the primary 15 video games and United have been sat comfortably in fourth.
Having initially advised his crew might be again contained in the top four by the tip of December, Mourinho admitted this week he has already been pressured to change his goal after three consecutive attracts towards Crystal Palace, Southampton and Arsenal.
Being shut sufficient “to odor” these positions by the flip of the 12 months, he says, is now extra real looking however there is no such thing as a escaping the truth that his crew are going to want to produce a run of kind that, for the time being, appears unlikely.
In 2012-13, Arsenal won eight and drew two of their final 10 video games to nick fourth spot and pip North London rivals Tottenham by a degree. In 2014-15, they managed to end third however solely after shedding simply three league video games after New 12 months’s Day. United’s longest successful run in the league up to now this season stands at two.
Whether or not Mourinho believes it’s going to take a miracle to end fourth or not, the statistics counsel he’s already up towards it.
Forty instances groups have completed in the top four positions over the past 10 seasons and solely twice has a crew achieved what United want to now. You could possibly argue Mourinho faces an excellent larger problem as a result of the hole is already larger.
After a depressing night at Southampton on Saturday there have been no less than indicators of life towards Arsenal. It was sufficient for Mourinho to once more reward the spirit and the character of his gamers after twice mounting their now customary fightback.
Arsenal may be added to a listing that already consists of Newcastle, Chelsea, Bournemouth and Juventus however battling again from right here and ending the season in the top four is one other matter completely.