Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes local rivals Manchester United can still challenge for a Champions League qualification spot this season but added that Jose Mourinho’s side are a “long distance” off the title pace.
United are currently nine points off fourth-placed City in the Premier League table following Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Everton, which maintained the club’s worst ever start to a Premier League campaign.
Mourinho’s side are 13 points behind leaders Chelsea, who won 3-1 at City on Saturday to avoid being overtaken at the top by their hosts.
Guardiola said that, while he thought resurrecting their title hopes would be difficult, United could still challenge for a return to the Champions League next year after missing out on this season’s competition.
“I saw the games against Stoke and Burnley, and other ones at Old Trafford,” Guardiola told his prematch news conference ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match at Celtic.
“They deserved by far to win the games but football is like this. United have the quality, the history, the manager and the players to be there.
“Of course, 13 points is a long distance, especially when one team is winning games with the quality of Chelsea. So it is not easy. But to be in the first four? Of course.”
City have already ensured their progress into the round of 16 in Europe, qualifying as runners-up in their group behind Barcelona.
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