Everton manager Ronald Koeman has told Jose Mourinho to "get realistic" after the Manchester United boss suggested the Toffees should aim for a Champions League spot after their summer spending spree.
In his programme notes ahead of the Old Trafford clash between the two sides on Sunday (17 September), the Portuguese coach said the Merseysiders ought to challenge for a top four finish after splashing £140m (€159.3m, $189.8m) in the transfer window.
"We are up against a team that has spent £140m," Mourinho wrote in his notes. "Obviously we are playing a team that wants to at least secure a top-four position."
However, Koeman, who saw his side lose 4-0 - their fourth loss in a row - refuted the claims, suggesting instead Everton have lower expectations this term.
"I read the United programme and my colleague told me about Everton spending £140m and so they need to go for the top four," the Dutchman said.
"If there's anybody in this room and outside and sees this as something realistic for us, please comment. Be realistic. I'm not happy how we started the season, but please be a bit realistic about Everton. We need time, but it's difficult in football."
Despite their summer spending, Everton have picked up only four points in the first five Premier League games of the season, with the weekend defeat coming after they capitulated 3-0 away at Atalanta in their Europa League opener.
While the scoreline flattered United, who scored three goals in the last 10 minutes, the match yet again underlined Everton's paucity of options up-front. Koeman has failed to replace Romelu Lukaku after his £75m move to United and has seen his side score just twice this season, a stat which was highlighted by the Belgian netted late on.
The Everton manager, however, insisted his side had been dealt a particularly difficult hand, as they faced four of last season's top six in the opening five weeks of the campaign.
"When you look at the fixtures at the start of the season, we knew we wouldn't win them all," said Koeman. "We have played Manchester City, United and Chelsea away, plus Tottenham at home. Four title contenders, with the Europa League in between. Now we have four games at home in different competitions and we need to win. If you don't win it is better to stop."
His sentiment was echoed by Mourinho, who admitted the Toffees' had faced a particularly tricky start to the season.
"Everton are going to be fine but they are living a difficult moment," he said. "I would not like these fixtures all together at the same time. I would like one of the top five, but all of them, that is not fair for them."