Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick conceded his team’s hopes of Champions League qualification are over after Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal.
A top-four finish already looked unlikely for the Red Devils after their 4-0 humiliation by Liverpool at Anfield in midweek, but their trip to the Emirates Stadium saw them go up against a direct rival.
While United’s performance was undoubtedly an improvement on their horror show on Merseyside, Rangnick’s men fell 2-0 behind in the first half thanks to an early Nuno Tavares goal and Bukayo Saka’s penalty.
Cristiano Ronaldo pulled one back with his 100th Premier League goal before Bruno Fernandes hit the post from the spot – that was one of three occasions United were denied by the frame of the goal, as Diogo Dalot hit both the upright and crossbar.
Arsenal finished United off slightly against the run of play when Granit Xhaka blasted home from distance with 20 minutes to go.
Victory leaves the fourth-placed Gunners six points ahead of United, while the former also have a game in hand, and Rangnick was frank in his assessment of the situation.
Asked if the top four was out of reach for United, Rangnick told BT Sport: “Pretty sure. For me, even before the game it wasn’t likely, but after today’s result, the top four is gone, yes.”
This was United’s first game since Erik ten Hag was confirmed as the club’s next permanent manager, news that dominated the build-up to the match from the Red Devils’ perspective.
4 – Manchester United have lost four consecutive away league games for the first time since a run of six between December 1980 and March 1981. Sickness. #ARSMUN
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 23, 2022
The consensus has been that Ten Hag faces a massive rebuild at Old Trafford, with Rangnick previously suggesting United might need to sign as many as 10 new players.
But Rangnick did not feel United’s performance on Saturday highlighted any new issues, while the German – who has been extremely critical of his players at times lately – even praised the team’s attitude.
“There is a lot of work for sure [for Ten Hag], we knew before the game,” Rangnick continued.
“But we also showed what kind of football we can play, and although we had to deal with the two early goals, we still showed the attitudes.
“So there is nothing about the attitude of the players that we should fault today.”
Nevertheless, Rangnick was frustrated by United’s feeble defending once again, though he tempered that by questioning the validity of some VAR decisions.
Among them, Xhaka’s strike was allowed to stand despite replays suggesting Eddie Nketiah was in David de Gea’s line of sight and an offside position, while United were denied a first-half penalty despite Cedric Soares clearly blocking the ball with his hand while crawling.
“The only weak side of the performance was we didn’t defend well in and around the box,” he said. “The same happened when we conceded the second and third goals, but for me there were three very unlucky, let’s put it that way, VAR decisions.
“For me the third goal of Arsenal was clearly offside, you can see it in slow-mo. David said to me he couldn’t see the ball.
“The second goal of Cristiano was definitely not offside and there was another handball decision in the first half, so we were not very happy with those VAR decisions in the end. It was an improved performance but disappointing result.”
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