The club’s chances of finishing in the top four of the Premier League have all but vanished following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal. Erik ten Hag will begin his new role at Manchester United this summer, with no plans to compete in the Champions League next season
The distance to Arsenal on the Premier League table is too large to close in the next few weeks of the season, especially for a United team that is playing so poorly.
United trails fourth-place Arsenal by six points despite having played one extra game. That number might rise to nine if Mikel Arteta’s club maintains the form they’ve shown in recent weeks, with victories over both Manchester United and Chelsea.
Tottenham is also in contention for the top four, but United would have to rely on both them and Arsenal collapsing late in the season — as well as somehow raising their wretched selves off the floor they presently occupy. There is simply too much to do.
Ralf Rangnick has been refreshingly candid and frank about the magnitude of the challenges he has inherited in the squad. United fans don’t blame the German coach for what they’re seeing – if anything, his ability to speak what he sees will give the club’s high brass nowhere to hide from the critical ‘open heart operation’ this summer. They are unable to act.
The most significant battle for United in the remainder of the 2021/22 season is avoiding a worst-ever Premier League finish. West Ham is only two points behind Chelsea in the seventh position and might leapfrog them if they can take advantage of Chelsea’s poor form on Sunday.
Wolves are only three points behind in eighth place and have a game in hand on United if they beat managerless Burnley — also on Sunday.
United have never finished lower than seventh in the Premier League era, with the exception of 2013/14, when David Moyes was in charge. But perhaps a recurrence of that, or worse, will be required to demonstrate that they can’t sit still.