Jose Mourinho said the best Manchester United can hope for this season is to finish fourth in Premier League standings.
United are 11 points adrift of the top four after a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday ensured they have now made their worst start to a season for 26 years.
Mourinho still believes his team can catch Arsenal and Chelsea and qualify for next season's Champions League but suggested Tottenham in third may already be out of sight.
"We can still finish fourth," the United manager told Sky Sports. "It is not easy. For sure, for sure we are going to finish in the top six but the best we can get is fourth. We can look to the fifth and probably later we can look to the fourth."
United were beaten at Anfield after Xherdan Shaqiri came off the bench to score twice in the second half. Jesse Lingard took advantage of Alisson Becker's mistake to cancel out Sadio Mane's opener but Mourinho refused to accept it was a fortunate goal after both Shaqiri's strikes took deflections before beating David De Gea.
"David is saying in the dressing room two easy balls for him but because of the rebounds he had no chance," Mourinho said. "If you want to speak about fortunate, then you speak about their second and third goal. Our goal was the result of a good action. To speak about luck and goals you have to speak about the second and the third."
Mourinho bemoaned the fact the lack of physicality among some of the players in his squad.
"First of all, we have lots of problems related to physicality, we have lots of players that I could consider injury prone, because some of our players are always injured and is not with me, was before me," he said in a post-mach news conference.
"If you look to the stats with [predecessors Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes], if you look to that period you have players that are permanently injured, when you are permanently injured, physicality is very difficult to get."
"There are qualities that a player has or doesn't have. You cannot improve, you cannot make them have. I give you an example: [Andy] Robertson, [Sadio] Mane, [Mohamed] Salah, [Georginio] Wijnaldum, [Naby] Keita, Fabinho, they are physical players, on top of that they are good players technically, I also have lots of good players, technically, but we do not have many players with that intensity or physicality.
Mourinho was careful to praise the work-rate of his players at Anfield.
"I am really, really happy with the players I had on the pitch with their attitude, with their effort, I am more than happy. Because I am more than happy I assume the responsibilities of the defeat and I want them to be hidden behind me," he said.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.