United’s defeat to Tottenham in midweek has left them 15 points behind their neighbours with only 13 games to play.
And Mourinho says he is now looking over his shoulder rather than forwards with the chase for top four places intensifying.
It’s the earliest Manchester United have conceded the title in the Premier League era but Mourinho insists it doesn’t mean they or any of the other clubs in the top six are having a bad season – it is simply because City have been outstanding.
He said: “They are doing so, so well that they are not letting the others come close to them, it is as simple as that.
“With the number of points we have and improvement in relation to last season, the distance would be a distance that leaves the fight (for the title) open.
“The fight is open only for second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth but it is practically closed for the first.
“I cannot say we, Tottenham or Chelsea is doing bad because the points we have are very reasonable but City started strong and kept going strong and managed to win matches they didn’t deserve – I give them credit when I say that – with that last push of the last minute goal, the winning goal in added time, they managed to do that in a way where that’s the distance.
“If you tell me all six want to be champion and only one will be and the other five fail, I think is too pragmatic a way to look at it because you can still do positive work and not win the title.”
United will mark the 60th anniversary of the Munich disaster before tomorrow’s home game against Huddersfield but Mourinho says they not only need to win for that reason but also to improve their chances of finishing second – or “first of the last” as he put it.
“The game is important because of Munich and we need points to be the first of the last, we have to try to finish second,” he said.
“We are in this position all season, we were first for a few weeks and then we were always second, I don’t remember us being fourth, fifth or sixth, we have been there since the beginning of the season, better than last season in every aspect, points, position, number of goals scored, conceded, better in everything so we have to try to stay there.
“But it is not easy because there are some very good teams. Chelsea are reigning champions and have had a fantastic market, Liverpool is a great team, Arsenal improved a lot in the market, Tottenham is a fantastic team and they are five points behind us.
“So we are doing quite well, with some negative moments, Wednesday was one of them. It Is very important to do better than last season and try to win something, and if not do better.”
Mourinho confirmed Marouane Fellaini faces another spell out injured but couldn’t specify a time span.
He added: “I don’t think the news is very good, he has a problem in his knee, it is the same knee but not the same locality – it was internal, now external, so let’s wait a couple of more days. But he is out of the game tomorrow.”
Mourinho also said Zlatan Ibrahimovic has mentioned nothing to him about a possible move to LA Galaxy. The Swedish veteran is expected to be fit by the end of the month and is understood to want to wait to the end of the season before making a decision on his future.