Jose Mourinho insists Manchester United deserve to finish at least second in the Premier League and claims critics have been too quick to praise their rivals further down the table.
United’s 2-0 win over Swansea City on Saturday moved them back into second in the table, two points above third-place Liverpool, who have played a game more.
Runaway leaders Manchester City will win the title if they beat United in the derby next weekend, but finishing in at least the top two for the first time since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 remains in the Red Devils’ hands.
And Mourinho says their league position proves they have been better than the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea behind them.
Asked about the derby at the Etihad Stadium next Saturday, he told a news conference: “Manchester City is not important for me. What is important for me is, since the moment we left first position and went to second, we stayed there for the whole of the season. We deserve to finish second, despite what you say, the criticisms you want to make.
“You all say third, fourth, fifth, sixth are better than us but they are not better than us because we have more points than them. We are going to fight every match, we are going to fight to finish second.”
Mourinho recalled Paul Pogba to the starting XI for the win over Swansea, after the France international had been left out of the line-up for the previous three games against Liverpool, Sevilla and Brighton and Hove Albion.
The United boss was happy with Pogba’s performance, although he felt his standards dropped in the second half, along with the rest of the side.
“I think he played like the team,” he said. “The team played very well in the first half, he played very well in the first half; the team went a little bit down in the second half and Paul also went a little bit down, but he played 90 minutes in Russia [for France] and it’s normal to go a little bit down with the rest of the players.
“But very important for us is the three points. We have I think 10 more points than last season, we have more goals, fewer conceded, we are going to try to finish second, so the season is not as bad as you try [to make it].”
Mourinho again praised the efforts of Romelu Lukaku, who broke the deadlock five minutes in with his 100th Premier League goal.
“It’s not just about the goals, it’s about the work he does,” Mourinho added of the Belgium international. “He’s a very humble guy, very good player, [we’re] very pleased with him.
“It’s not just the goals he scored, [it’s] about everything, defensive movement, the guy is very good.”