believes that recent malaise can be put down to plain old bad luck, with the Portuguese left aggrieved by both refereeing decisions and injuries to his players.
On Saturday, after sharing the points against Leicester City and Burnley over the festive period, United were held to their third draw in as many games by Mauricio Pellegrino’s stubborn Southampton.
Another two points dropped meant that Mourinho’s side fell out of the top two for the first time this season, with Chelsea now sitting second, and there remains a 15-point gap between United and leaders Manchester City.
United appear to have lost their way since suffering defeat against City in the Manchester derby earlier this month, having taken just nine points from a possible 15 in the time since.
“I feel unlucky, yes,” he said. “But when unlucky in football, you have to chase, which is what we try to do. When I speak about three big decisions, three penalties in matches where a penalty and a possible goal makes a huge difference, I want to say unlucky because it‘s what I feel.
“I could be here now with a ‘bias‘ theory but I‘m not at all because honestly I‘m happy with the referees‘ performances in these matches,” the United manager insisted. “These were just unlucky decisions. You have to be biased against us to say that the penalty against City, against Leicester and tonight were not penalties.”
Mourinho added: “Three draws are different from three defeats. I know the difference between three draws and three defeats. The difference is just three points but the difference in terms of the mental state of a defeat and draw makes a difference.
“We need to improve the results, not the ‘globality’ of the performance. These last two matches at home, if I forget the big mistake of the first Burnley goal, the team was solid, the team played well, the team tried to play all the time… I‘m happy with that quality, with that spirit.”
Mourinho will have to go without either of his senior centre-forwards for the trip to Everton on New Year’s Day after both Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered injury setbacks.
Ibrahimovic has been ruled out for a month after a recurrence of the serious knee ligament injury which almost ended his career last season. The 36-year-old striker only recently returned having spent seven months on the sidelines.
Lukaku, meanwhile, was stretchered off in the opening stages of the draw with Southampton after a clash of heads with defender Wesley Hoedt. The Belgian required a neck brace and an oxygen mask after the collision and is also likely to miss Friday’s FA Cup third round tie with Derby County.
“The boys are trying,” Mourinho said. “We have lots of problems in the team. We lost Lukaku, we lost Ibrahimovic for a month and to lose him for a month means that he stops his run to recovery. He is running for many many months and in a period where what he needs is to play and to have minutes, we lose him for a month. Then we lose Lukaku, I don‘t know for how long.
“So we have problems, we have difficulties now to rotate players. I think the fact that we don‘t play EFL Cup semi-finals is a good thing for us because we have no players to play these two possible extra matches in January.
“Now we have to cope with Everton and Derby County, then after that an open space of nine or 10 days before Stoke City. Hopefully in this period we can rest, we can work, we can recover some players to attack the second part of the season. We finish the year in third and we have to fight to improve our position.”