Manchester United scraped Europa League qualification on the final day of the season despite losing away at Crystal Palace thanks to Brighton toppling West Ham at the Amex
Ralf Rangnick was thankful Brighton helped Manchester United qualify for next season’s Europa League following their own 1-0 loss away to Crystal Palace.
Rangnick left the hot-seat by telling incoming boss Erik Ten Hag to focus on improving the team spirit at Old Trafford. The Red Devils saw a sorry campaign end with another defeat after Wilfried Zaha’s first-half goal but they avoided the embarrassment of dropping into the Europa Conference League after West Ham were unable to win at Brighton.
It meant United finished the season in sixth but there would have been little positives for Ten Hag to take after he watched from the stands at Selhurst Park. Rangnick said: “Yes, I think Brighton did us the favour to turn the game around because they were losing at half-time. They scored three times in the second half and that was the good thing about the weekend and about this fixture.
“We would have loved to take care of ourselves but in a way the game was indicative of last couple of weeks, especially when we played away from home. It was a new experience for me, not necessary coming in the middle of the season but knowing that it would be an interim role. Unfortunately we didn’t have any pre-season and unfortunately we couldn’t strengthen the squad.
“These things happen and in hindsight it was a little bit bittersweet or sweet bitter rather because in the first couple of weeks and months did well. We collected enough points with an average of 2.1 until the game against Atletico but I think that defeat in the Champions League was in a way like somebody popped the balloon.”
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Ex-RB Leipzig manager Rangnick, who will continue to work with United in a consultancy role, did not hold back in his assessment that key members of the Old Trafford squad lost focus after they exited the Champions League in March.
The Red Devils were fifth in the table before they were knocked out by Atletico and would win only two of their remaining nine matches. Rangnick added: “I think the big goal of some of our top players was the Champions League and after this defeat to Atletico you could literally feel it in training that we did not have the same level of energy, focus and concentration in training.
“In the league if you are not playing at the best or highest level, and this also happened before I arrived, even against bottom teams like Watford you can concede four goals and this can happen.”
While Ten Hag was at Palace, he did not come into the United dressing room and Rangnick has also not spoken to the ex-Ajax boss in person. The German plans to over the coming days and warned his successor of a key challenge at Old Trafford.
“Team spirit, yes this is also an issue,” Rangnick admitted. “I think this team could do with more cohesion, there could be more togetherness on the pitch. This is also important when we think of new players – when the board together with the manager are thinking about new players – that we make sure they are not only players that have the quality to strengthen the squad but they are players who will invest in the team spirit.”
Patrick Vieira saw his side claim another win to secure a 12th-place finish. He said: “It was the best way to end the season, to win the game against United because of what they represent in the Premier League. I was really pleased because we won and we had another clean sheet at home so a good way to end the season.”