After Saturday's 2-2 draw with Southampton left United eight points behind fourth-place Arsenal, the manager told Renato Senise at RedeTV (h/t Lucas Sposito at Sport Witness) his aim was to "try to win as many points as possible and try almost the miracle of finishing fourth."
His comments in his press conference on Tuesday contradicted that statement, however:
Per The Independent's Mark Critchley, he said:
"I don't know if I say or if I didn't, but if I used that word is not what I feel at all.
"We have like eight or nine points from fourth something like that, I don't think we need a miracle at all. We need a good run of results, not waste points we shouldn't waste.
"Last week before Crystal Palace game, I told my hopes and targets were end of December to be in that position. The target changed but in the sense let's try to close the distance best we can and be very close to these positions.
"I think far from a miracle, we just need to not be so unlucky with problems that we have, we need some players to perform better than they are we need to perform better as a team but far from a miracle."
Per Sky Sports Premier League, he added:
United's target now appears to be a place in the top six, which Mourinho believes they will achieve:
After finishing second last season, 19 points behind Manchester City, the Red Devils would have been hoping to at least reduce the gulf between the two sides in this campaign if not provide a serious title challenge to the Sky Blues.
United are winless in their last three league matches, though, which has left them 16 points behind City and with a negative goal difference after 14 games.
The Red Devils host Arsenal on Wednesday, with the Gunners bringing a 19-match unbeaten run with them to Old Trafford.
Mourinho, perhaps anticipating United's struggles to continue in that game, seemed to be in a slightly prickly mood, per Charlotte Duncker and Simon Bajkowski of the Manchester Evening News:
Bleacher Report's Rob Blanchette has had enough of listening to Mourinho and just wants to see improvement on the pitch:
The Red Devils can ill afford a defeat on Wednesday, as that could leave them with an 11-point gap on the top four.
Even if they win, they could still be eight points behind fourth depending on Tottenham Hotspur's result at home to Southampton.
Mourinho may feel his comments on United needing a miracle were not reflective of his true feelings on the matter, but he was not far wrong.