Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Manchester City highlighted how far United have fallen off the pace, but insisted he had no fears over his future.
The United boss cut a disconsolate figure on touchline at Old Trafford, where Eric Bailly netted an own goal before slack defending and goalkeeping allowed Bernardo Silva to double the visitors' advantage in the first half.
United, beaten 5-0 by Liverpool in their previous home game, offered scant threat after the break as the pressure mounted on Solskjaer.
And the Norwegian admitted the stark disparity between the two sides was evident, with the forthcoming international break offering some respite for the embattled boss.
He told Sky Sports: "At the moment, yes we are [a long way behind the leading teams], but we've got to get back to what we started to look like, and we started to look like a proper team at the end of last season, start of this season. We've got to get back to that.
"I'm sure when we come back, the players will be fresh in their mind after internationals. The demands on me and the players are going to be high, the expectations. We need to get back to what we started to look like for a while, and we've got the players to do that.
"We've been this situation a few times of course, since the last game we played here it has been a very difficult period. We need to be on the front foot more, I can't look at myself and say this is the way I want Manchester United to play."
Asked if he was starting to feel as though he may be on borrowed time, Solskjaer, whose side slipped six points behind City, added: "No, I don't start to do that.
"I have good communications all the time with the club, we're very upfront and honest about the situation.
"I work for Man United and want the best for Man United and while I'm here I'll do what I can to improve this, and that's going back to what we started to look like."
United were second best throughout against Pep Guardiola's side, managing only one shot on target, while the second goal saw an uncharacteristic error from David de Gea, who was beaten at his near post.
"It's very difficult to talk now of course because we started the game off badly, passive of course," said Solskjaer. "When they get the first goal it was always going to be a difficult game anyway.
"Being 1-0 down was hard, David kept us in the game, some good stops, then they scored a goal they always score. [Joao] Cancelo cuts inside, crosses back stick, we know that's going to happen and it shouldn't happen.
"They played well, of course, they don't give you opportunities to win the ball off them, some praise has to go to them as well but we were not at our level, our standard, they need to be raised.
"We still don't trust ourselves with the ball, we still don't pass or find the angles as well as I know we can."