Jose Mourinho accepts Manchester United are not in the Premier League title race due to their poor start to the season.
United head to Bournemouth for Saturday's Premier League match eighth in the table, two places below the in-form Cherries.
Mourinho's men finished second behind runaway champions Manchester City last season but are already nine points off the pace after 10 matches.
And the Portuguese feels United have to battle back into the top four before they can think about joining a title race that is shaping up to include Liverpool and Chelsea.
"When you are outside the top four I don't think you should speak about a title race," Mourinho said. "When you are top four, and I believe we are going to be, you can look up and see the distance, look at the fixtures and the calendar and the situation.
"But in this moment we are outside the top four, so the point now is to get the points we need and get to the end of December in a better position than we are in now."
"In this moment we have to focus on ourselves to get better results," Jose says. "But I think it's very difficult, for example, to go to Stamford Bridge and do better than what we did in terms of performance." #MUFC— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 2, 2018
United have taken seven points from their last three games but there remains work to do.
And Mourinho is remaining upbeat despite feeling a complicated upcoming fixture list will present challenges for United in the coming weeks.
"I think we'll be in a better position, I always say that at the end of the season you've played 19 matches at home and 19 away, so it doesn't matter when," Mourinho added.
"But the reality is the way the fixtures come it has an influence in the moment. We had a double fixture away: Burnley, Watford. Now we have a double fixture away: Bournemouth and Manchester City.
"The mood is very positive. We are fine," says the boss. "The second half against Newcastle and the match against Chelsea. The team fought hard against Juventus, so a part of the result wasn't negative, and we had a very positive game against Everton." #MUFC— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 2, 2018
"We will have Juventus away before Manchester City. We will have Valencia away before Liverpool. In this part of the season we will play away against possibly the three biggest candidates for the title: Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, so the calendar was not nice to us.
"But I think by the end of December, which is the end of the first half of the Premier League, I think we are not going to be in the position we are now. We are going to be in a better position."
Mourinho's future was the subject of strong speculation following a 3-1 Premier League loss at West Ham, but he believes his squad are looking up.
Jose: "We have to get the points we need to try to be in a better position by the end of December, where I expect us to be." #MUFC— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 2, 2018
"The mood is fine. Our last couple of weeks was positive - let's say the second half against Newcastle and the match against Chelsea," he said.
"Against Juventus was really hard and the team fought hard, so a part of the result was not a negative performance. Another positive in some moments, a very positive game against Everton.
"So, the mood is very positive. We are fine."