Man Utd cannot afford a slip that Erik ten Hag has no control over

Manchester United will play in the Europa League next season if they beat Crystal Palace in their last game, but failing to do so will add further damage to a woeful season at Old Trafford

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Rangnick is hoping to finally meet new Man Utd boss ten Hag

Manchester United have a crucial final game of the season on Sunday afternoon when they head to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace.

Regardless of the outcome, it will be a memorable game for a number of reasons. It will be the final game of Ralf Rangnick’s caretaker stint at the helm of Old Trafford before he moves to an advisory role, with Erik ten Hag taking over after a successful stint in charge of Dutch giants Ajax.

At the start of the game, United are in sixth place but are by no means assured of a place in next season’s Europa League. To do so, they must either win in London or match West Ham United’s result against Brighton and Hove Albion.

It’s been a season to forget on many levels for United. At the start of the season in the Champions League, United were eliminated from the competition in the round of 16 and will not take part in the competition next season, marking the fourth time in eight seasons that one of the biggest clubs in the world will be sidelined over European football.

In the league, United is closer to the relegation zone than to leaders and city rivals Manchester City and fails in the first rounds of both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.

The best United and new boss Ten Hag can hope for next season is a place in the Europa League, Europe’s second-tier competition, but it’s no certainty. A slip-up against Palace could see them relegated to the Europa Conference League, a new tournament designed to raise the profile of lesser-known clubs, which is not fitting for a club that have won three European cups and 20 top-flight titles.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 4: Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick and Cristiano Ronaldo leave the pitch after taking penalties during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on February 4, 2022 in Manchester , England, have lost. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Where will Manchester United end up under Erik ten Hag next season? Share your opinion in the comment section.

For a United club to fail to qualify for the Champions League is nothing short of disastrous. For Ten Hag and his hoped-for summer squad reshuffle revolution, he could miss out on some of his key transfer targets as he is unable to lure future signings with a Champions League spot next season.

It’s not just their lack of status in Europe next season that’s a concern, United will end this season in sixth or seventh place and while either five or six places in a season is a lot to gain, it’s been doable . However, a 32-point deficit, which could be even higher at 6pm on Sunday, is an even more damaging fact.

If United win and finish sixth, it will be their third sixth-place finish in six seasons. Should Rangnick’s men drop to seventh place, it would be their worst ending to a league season since the Premier League was formed in 1992.

On the other side of town, Manchester City have already announced the signing of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, with the Norwegian regarded as one of the elite number nine in world football? Why? Finances, sustained success and a team of serial winners make it too good for Haaland to ignore.

United have now gone nine years without a league title and could remain so for some time to come as City and Liverpool continue to outperform the rest of England’s top flight. Europa League football next season would at least give Ten Hag some pride, rather than field his side in a third-tier competition that a club of United’s stature should fall far short of.

The two Manchester giants may be a little over four miles apart, but in terms of the location of the two, they’re significantly further apart.

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