The Red Devils had managed to build some momentum in the Premier League over the past month or so following three victories and one draw in four top-flight outings to move to within four points of the top four.
Manchester United earned praise for their resilience after coming from behind to secure seven points from losing positions against Newcastle United, Chelsea FC and Bournemouth.
Mourinho’s side came from behind to notch up a famous 2-1 win over Juventus in Turin on Wednesday night to breathe life into their Champions League campaign.
However, Manchester City were too strong for their derby rivals at The Etihad Stadium on Sunday evening after Pep Guardiola’s side were resounding 3-1 winners against Manchester United.
David Silva and Sergio Aguero put the Citizens in a strong position before Anthony Martial’s second-half penalty offered hope of a Manchester United comeback.
But the Premier League leaders exerted their dominance with Ilkay Gundogan adding a third goal to move Manchester City 12 points ahead of Mourinho’s side.
Indeed, their derby defeat left Manchester United in tenth place and seven points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur in the final Champions League spot.
Asked whether Manchester United can still win the title this season, Mourinho told his post-match media conference:
“We are outside the top four. How can we speak about the title? To speak about the title you need to be in the top positions.
‘So let’s fight to close the gap and jump into the top four, if one day we jump into the top four, we’ll see what the difference is.”
Manchester United finished in second spot in the Premier League last term after the Red Devils ended their first season under Mourinho in sixth place.
The Portuguese head coach outlined their target for the rest of the Premier League season after four losses in their opening 12 games.
“It’s 12 points. I think our team is improving a lot, even defensively conceding three goals today, it was a positive defensive performance,” Mourinho added. “We knew that there is a difference in potential.
“Since the beginning of the season, we knew that our second position last season was a fantastic achievement for us, and this season we are going to fight for the top four.
“We are outside of that, we are having very difficult fixtures, away at Chelsea, away at Manchester City, almost impossibly difficult for us to win three matches in a row. Now we have to go for it and try to build on what we are doing.”
Manchester United will take on Crystal Palace, Southampton, Arsenal and Fulham in their next four Premier League games.
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