Manchester United's Jose Mourinho targets top four by end of the year

MANCHESTER, England -- Jose Mourinho is sticking by his prediction that Manchester United will be back in the Premier League's top four by the end of 2018.

Crystal Palace travel to Old Trafford on Saturday with United eighth, seven points off the Champions League places and although Mourinho acknowledges that is a "big gap," he said he remained confident of climbing the table by January.

"I know it's a big gap but I also know that until the end of December, if I'm not wrong, we have eight Premier League matches to play," he told a news conference on Friday.

"Eight Premier League matches -- we are speaking about 24 points, 24 points for us to fight for the other ones in the top four to fight for too, but I believe we are going to be there."

Mourinho will have Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini available after they missed international duty with France and Belgium respectively.

Paul Pogba should also be fit after missing the derby defeat at Manchester City, while Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku could feature after injury. Luke Shaw, however, is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season after City.

"Martial stayed with us, he didn't go to the national team," Mourinho said. "He worked really hard, he's ready, he plays [against Palace]. Is he ready to play three in a row in the same week? I don't know, but the most important match is the next.

"Fellaini also stayed, no national team, they also let him stay in spite of playing 90 minutes against Manchester City. He needed to stay and prepare himself better after such an injury that he had before, so Marouane is also good.

"And the boys in the national teams -- Rashford came with a little problem but is ready, Lukaku is ready. I would say ready with a little bit of a risk but ready.

"And Paul, we knew with this break he would recover from that small muscular injury, so we don't have players I can say are out of the game. We have a huge 23 group to choose from."

Mourinho also addressed reported quotes in which he allegedly described young Manchester United stars as immature, saying his words had been taken out of context.

Mourinho was reported to have questioned the maturity of players including Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial in an interview with Univision, but he took strong issue with how the quotes had been interpreted.

"I don't play your game," he said. "I don't play the game of 'take out of context and do what you want.'

"I don't play your game and I have nothing to say. I don't lose my time playing that game. Next question."