Man Utd a 'long distance' from title, but Mourinho safe

Old Trafford bosses stand by their man after Pep Guardiola speaks out about his rival's poor start to the season

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola

The bad blood between Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and his Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola has been conspicuous by its absence this season, but the truce could be strained after the Spaniard said United were a "long distance" from challenging for the title.

Mourinho's side drew 1-1 with Everton on Saturday, their fourth draw in five matches, and are now 13 points behind league leaders Chelsea.

Guardiola had some sympathy with United, but acknowledged they were falling behind the leading pack in the title race.

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"They deserved by far to win the games but football is like this," he said. "United have the quality, the history, the manager and the players to be there.

"Of course, 13 points is a long distance, especially when one team is winning games with the quality of Chelsea. So it is not easy. But to be in the first four? Of course."

He has a point. "No team has ever made up a 13-point deficit to win the Premier League," says The Times. "Manchester United overturned a 12-point gap to Newcastle United in 1996 but there were not the same number of teams to leapfrog."

However, while the title may be beyond them, Mourinho's efforts have not gone unnoticed at Old Trafford.

The Portuguese "retains the steadfast support and patience of Manchester United's hierarchy, who have been 'encouraged' by the team's improving style of play, despite worsening results consigning the club to their poorest start to a season for 26 years", says James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph.

Mourinho's predecessor, Louis van Gaal, was castigated for his "dull, risk averse" approach, adds the journalist. "But Mourinho's paymasters believe the former Chelsea manager is presiding over a marked uplift in performance terms, even if a run of just two wins from the past 11 league matches has already left the club facing a battle to finish in the top four, and are confident results will improve as a consequence."

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