Manchester United have become somewhat accustomed to disappointment over the past nine years, but the 2021-22 season arguably saw them plumb new depths.

United accumulated just 58 points, their worst record in a single Premier League campaign.

But on top of that, champions Manchester City's haul of 93 points meant United finished the season 35 points adrift of the summit – that is comfortably the furthest off the top the Red Devils have ended a term in the Premier League era.

It was also the first time since 1989-90 that United failed to finish a league season with a positive goal difference, as they scored and conceded 57 goals.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick said during his tenure that the squad needed the equivalent of open-heart surgery, suggesting they needed potentially 10 new players.

There are arguably four players who head into the pre-season under new manager Erik ten Hag having not done themselves a disservice this season, though even they will still have points to prove.
 

Fred

The United career of Fred has been a peculiar one. It's fair to say even his most-ardent backers would admit he's not exactly been worth the monumental reported transfer fee of £52million.

But in his defence, a lot of his time at United has been spent playing out of position. At no point since he joined have the club had a world-class defensive midfielder, meaning he's very often been shoe-horned into that role.

And it rarely takes long for his glaring inadequacies in such a position to come to the surface. First and foremost, his awareness of what's around him is poor, and that's arguably the nightmare situation for someone playing a role in which you expect to receive the ball under pressure just outside your box.

The 2021-22 season still had a bit of that for Fred, but crucially there were more signs of him operating more functionally as a 'number eight', rather than a six, and while few would consider him to be an outstanding passer, it's in this role where his excellent work rate and generally solid technique become much more of an asset to the team.

Among United players to feature for at least 500 minutes across all competitions this season, only Diogo Dalot (2.9) attempted more tackles than Fred (2.7) on a per-90-minute basis, while just three players engaged in more duels than the Brazilian (11.7). He also ranked behind only three for passes into the final third (7.5).

Now, perhaps perception plays a part in what many would consider a decent season for Fred, meaning his low performance level in the past suggests his improvement is exaggerated. But as long as he's not playing as a six again, expect Ten Hag to find a use for him.
 

David de Gea

Few would disagree with the suggestion De Gea's level dipped significantly a few years ago, but there were some positive signs in the 2021-22 season, almost as if he had reacted to the scare of seeing Dean Henderson get some game time in 2020-21.

In fact, his 2.8 goals prevented was the second-best score in the Premier League, highlighting how good his shot-stopping was.

Over the course of the campaign, only Illan Meslier (143) and Kasper Schmeichel (131) managed more saves than De Gea (128). This obviously proves just how unreliable the defence in front of him was, because no team of their stature should have such a busy goalkeeper.

For example, Ederson faced just 60 shots, which was the fewest of any goalkeeper to play over 1,600 minutes.

But despite De Gea generally enjoying a positive season when it comes to bailing United out, there remain plenty of fans and critics who feel the club could still do better than him.

Under Ten Hag, it would seem likely there will be a greater reliance on keeping possession, and this could be where other options are considered.

While De Gea's own-half passing accuracy of 88.2 per cent doesn't sound alarming, there were 12 goalkeepers (minimum 500 minutes) with better records, while the 96 and 95 per cent posted by Ederson and Alisson, respectively, show a significant gulf.

Similarly, in the same group of goalkeepers, De Gea ranked 18th (out of 26) for long-pass accuracy (33.1 per cent). The gap to Ederson (59.3 per cent) and Alisson (48.1 per cent) is even more pronounced.

Of course, a goalkeeper's primary function is to prevent goals, but if yours is completely out of sync with the team's style, then that's automatically an area where you're not maximising potential.
 

Cristiano Ronaldo

When Ronaldo's return was confirmed last year, there was an awful lot of noise around whether he was right for United.

People claimed that, despite his goals, Ronaldo made Juventus a less functional team because he didn't offer enough outside the penalty area.

Those suggestions never quite went away at United either because, regardless of how effective he proved to be in the box, the team in general played below expectations for practically the entire season.

It's impossible to say whether a different striker with a broader arsenal would have turned United into a better team, but given how deep their issues run, it seems a little unfair to pin the blame on Ronaldo.

After all, goals win football matches – he certainly did his bit. Across all competitions, he scored 24 goals at a rate of one every 132.9 minutes. Only Jamie Vardy (131.6 mins), Mohamed Salah (129.5 mins) and Riyad Mahrez (122.1 mins) netted with greater frequency among Premier League players (min. 50 shots).

Similarly, only Salah (31) and Harry Kane (27) scored more than Ronaldo, though each of them had at least an extra 800 minutes on the pitch than him.

Ronaldo's 24 makes him one of only six players to net at least 20 goals in a single season for United since Alex Ferguson retired, with Bruno Fernandes and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (both 28) plundering the most in that span.

Surely Ten Hag won't discard him?
 

Anthony Elanga

There was an expectation Elanga was going to play a reasonable amount of football this season, such had been his progress in the United youth sides.

But he didn't feature in a single Premier League game until Ralf Rangnick's first match in charge at the start of December. Before then, he'd had one brief cameo in the EFL Cup before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer promptly forgot about him again.

As it happened, Elanga proved to be a bit of a Rangnick favourite. Even though a lot of his appearances were from the bench, no outfield player featured in more games for the interim manager than the speedy forward.

Rangnick clearly liked Elanga's pace, attitude and work rate, and he did chip in with three goals. Granted, that was hardly an outstanding number, but over the same period only Ronaldo (12) and Fernandes (five) managed more.

His nine chances created was a pretty poor return, but again, only Ronaldo (84) and Fernandes (67) attempted more shots than the Sweden international (27), so he was offering something in attack.

There's undoubtedly a lot of room for improvement there, and he'll need to sharpen up from a creative sense if he's to have a long-term future at the club, but he's clearly in a stronger position than 12 months ago.

David de Gea bemoaned an abject Manchester United season as he insisted his Red Devils' team-mates who are not committed "do not have to stay".

Ralf Rangnick has failed to transform United's fortunes following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's departure in November, ending his tenure with the lowest win rate of any manager in the club's Premier League history (41.7 per cent – 10 wins from 24 games).

Erik ten Hag watched on as United fell to a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, albeit they will be playing in the Europa League next season after West Ham failed to leapfrog them on the final day.

The incoming Ten Hag will have a sizeable rebuilding task at hand after United failed to end a league campaign with a positive goal difference (zero in 2021-22) for the first time since the 1989-90 campaign (minus-one).

United also concluded their campaign with a record-low Premier League points haul (58), and De Gea vented his frustrations after the game at Selhurst Park.

"I want to forget this season and be 100 per cent ready for the next season and be positive. The best thing that happened today is the season has finished," De Gea told BBC Sport.

"It has been horrible, a very bad season in all ways, it has been very tough. It is time to rest and prepare your minds for next season.

"Ones who want to stay, stay at the club. Ones that don't want to stay, go out. You don't have to stay here.

"The new manager and staff are already looking for new players. Hopefully, they bring good ones with good character."

Unwanted Premier League-era records continued to tumble for United, who have lost six consecutive away league matches for the first time since March 1981, and De Gea is excited for new beginnings under Ten Hag next term.

"I cannot wait. I am excited for the next season, new manager, new players," he added.

"Hopefully we will improve and put Manchester United in a better position. We need to trust in the future."

Juan Mata has called for a reset at Manchester United as he suggested any player who does not meet the standards should not be at Old Trafford.

United have suffered another dismal season and, regardless of the result in their final game at Crystal Palace on Sunday, will finish the campaign with their lowest points tally in Premier League history.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was dismissed in late November before the short-term appointment of Ralf Rangnick, who will leave with the lowest win rate of any United manager in Premier League history (currently 43.5 per cent – 10 wins from 23 games).

Erik ten Hag is the next man tasked with transforming United's fortunes, and midfielder Mata urged improvements from his side next term as questions persist over the players' commitment and attitude.

"It's clear that on the pitch, we have made many mistakes," Mata told The Athletic. "We could have also dealt better with certain situations that were happening in the club, managers changing, negative things.

"At the end of the day, we let that maybe affect too much the energy of Carrington.

"Certain standards were not met. Whether that's attitude, level of training, off the pitch, which doesn't include players, we haven't been good enough. So that's where we could learn.

"Also, certain things were out of our control, which we shouldn't let affect us. You feel that way when you see certain things are not good enough. But we shouldn't have let things happen.

"Many circumstances can affect certain behaviours. If you don't have a solid base, when bad things come, it is difficult to stay all together.

"We need a reset in the culture of the club. That's how I feel. The standards, what it means to represent this club to any player, what entitles you to play for Manchester United, what is expected on the pitch and off the pitch.

"Many things that need to be clear – this is Manchester United and anyone who doesn't meet those standards is not up to the task and should not be here. That's as clear as I can be."

United require victory over Palace to guarantee they do not drop to seventh, which would mark their joint-worst finish in the Premier League (alongside the 2013-14 season) and see them play Europa Conference League football next term.

Cristiano Ronaldo will look to add to his 18 Premier League goals this season, only netting more in a single campaign in 2007-08 (31), while goalkeeper David de Gea will aim to end a positive season on a personal level on a high note.

De Gea implored United to perform for the fans when they visit Palace, who have never won in 12 Premier League home games against the Red Devils (D4 L8), which is the most one team has faced another at home without ever winning in the competition.

"We know [this season has] been difficult," he told MUTV. "But at least just for [the fans] and for our pride [we will] try to win the game.

"[I want to] at least give a win for the fans because they have been absolutely amazing for the whole season and it's great to have them at every single game.

"It will always have been a tough season for us, but I am very proud of my season, to be honest.

"I worked really hard in the summer to be here and be ready to play and show my qualities for the team. I think I did very well. I played very consistent this season and helped the team a lot."

Manchester United supporters will not forget the damaging impact some Red Devils players have had this campaign, while Jesse Lingard did not have a "god-given right" to an Old Trafford send-off.

That is according to United great Gary Neville, who referenced legendary captains of the club, Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson, not being given special treatment in their final games for the club.

Lingard was not in the squad for the final home game of the season against Brentford last Monday, his last chance to feature at Old Trafford with his contract set to expire at the end of the campaign.

Louie Scott, Lingard's brother, subsequently took to Instagram to take aim at United, venting his anger how the England international could spend 20 years at the club without being offered a farewell.

Neville – speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast – labelled the situation as "nonsense" as he suggested Lingard did not merit a send-off.

"There was a lot of nonsense spoken about Lingard. He's been at the club a long time and done a good job," he said.

"But I've seen Bryan Robson and Steve Bruce not play in their last games for the club and not get a send-off in cup finals.

"They were both great captains and one of them probably is the greatest captain Manchester United have ever had. They didn't get the send-off they wanted so I'm not sure why Lingard deserved it.

"I was thrown away in West Brom in a toilet – sometimes it just doesn't work out, Jesse!

"To feel like you've a god-given right to get some minutes on the pitch based on how they played. Not one of them, other than David de Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo, can complain about what will happen to them this summer."

Lingard was again not present as Brighton and Hove Albion thumped United 4-0 on Saturday, the Red Devils have now conceded more goals (56) than in any previous Premier League campaign.

The result represented a new low in a dire season for United, who will also set their lowest-ever Premier League points tally, sitting on 58 – six fewer than their 2013-14 mark with only one game to play.

Bruno Fernandes accepted the assessment from United supporters that the players "were not fit to wear the shirt", while interim manager Ralf Rangnick apologised for the humiliation at the Amex Stadium.

Neville believes he has never seen the United fans turn on their own players as they did on the south coast, which he suggests shows how bad the performance was.

"It's been a shocking few months. I can't wait for the season to end and to stop talking about them," he added. 

"I was delighted not to be on the Brighton game before it, during it and after it. I can't watch them because it doesn't represent anything that a football club should be, let alone Manchester United.

"The players are only damaging themselves to a point where the fans won't forget. They were singing 'you're not fit to wear the shirt" – I have never, ever, heard United fans resort to that chant. That's a chant you would hear at QPR a few years ago or Sunderland when the fans were walking out.

"I have never known a United fanbase turn on a team like this one. It's now really clear the players have thrown the towel in. They really have. It's been a disgrace for a couple of months. It's embarrassing.

"[Incoming manager Erik] ten Hag has got a massive job to do."

Erik ten Hag appears as though he will have a huge say over his own Manchester United transfer targets.

The Dutchman has inked a three-year deal at Old Trafford, with the option for a further year.

Ten Hag will officially take over on July 1, with Ralf Rangnick remaining in interim charge.

A face familiar to the Premier League could now be headed to Old Trafford with Ten Hag from Ajax…


TOP STORY - TEN HAG TO BRING HALLER TO UNITED

Manchester United may make a move for Ajax striker Sebastien Haller in the off-season according to The Sun.

Haller currently plays under ten Hag, who will take over at United at the end of the campaign.

The Ivory Coast striker, who spent two years with West Ham United, has netted 33 goals in all competitions for Ajax this term.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are optimistic that they can land Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski in the off-season, reports Sport. Lewandowski is contracted with Bayern until 2023.

- Liverpool have contacted 22-year-old Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni about a move to England, claims Foot Mercato.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Inter are not interested in signing Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic, contrary to reports. Pjanic is currently on loan at Besiktas from Barcelona.

- David de Gea and Manchester United are ready to enter into talks on a contract extension reports 90min.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Luka Modric will ink a new deal with Real Madrid running until 2023.

David de Gea is "very excited" to work under Erik ten Hag after the Dutchman was confirmed as Manchester United's new manager on Thursday. 

Ten Hag will arrive from Ajax at the end of the season and take over from interim boss Ralf Rangnick on a three-year contract with an option to extend for another year. 

The 52-year-old is on course to win a third Eredivisie title with Ajax this season and has been lauded for his possession-based style. 

He guided Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19 and won two KNVB Bekers, though he was unable to make it a third last Sunday when his side were beaten 2-1 by PSV in the final.

De Gea is pleased to finally have clarity over United's managerial future and hopes they can focus on getting their push for a place in the Premier League's top four back on track. 

"Very excited the club has made the decision so now we all know," De Gea told United's official website. 

"We know what he has done for Ajax, he has nearly been in a Champions League final, he won titles and he develops players, so I’m very excited. 

"I think he plays very good football. Now we have to be very focused on the last games but we are excited to know who is coming. But now let's focus on Arsenal and fight until the end to be in the top four. 

"It's good to know and for sure he is already watching the games and thinking about what he can do to improve the team, so that's very good for us. I'm looking forward to working under him. 

"Of course, now the focus on Arsenal, it's a final [for us], we have to take the three points, [otherwise] the top four is done. Let's be focused and win the game." 

After months of speculation, Manchester United have confirmed Erik ten Hag will take over as the club's new manager at the end of another frustrating season at Old Trafford.

The 52-year-old will have a huge job on his hands when he arrives this summer, with the Red Devils looking unlikely to qualify for the Champions League after struggling under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick this term.

High up on Ten Hag's to-do list will be deciding who amongst the current squad will be suited to playing his high-pressing, possession-based style of football.

Here, Stats Perform uses Opta-powered data to give an insight into three players who could impress under the Dutchman, and three who may find their days numbered after his arrival…

Who might star under Ten Hag?

Donny Van de Beek

An easy choice. Van de Beek emerged as a star under Ten Hag's tutelage at Ajax, and was a driving force being the Amsterdam giants' terrific run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19. Installed as a creative midfielder alongside Frenkie de Jong, Van de Beek scored three goals and provided two assists during that famous run, with only Dusan Tadic (six) outscoring him for Ajax in the competition.

Having played a paltry 381 minutes for United across 14 appearances this season before being sent on loan to Everton in January, the 25-year-old looks the most obvious player to benefit from the arrival of his former coach

Jadon Sancho

Another player likely to thrive under Ten Hag is England winger Jadon Sancho, who has registered five goals and three assists in 37 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils since moving from Borussia Dortmund last summer.

Only Bruno Fernandes (98) has created more open-play chances for United this term than Sancho (47), and he definitely stands to benefit from the arrival of a coach whose teams play with genuine width.

Each of Tadic (15), Antony (12), and Steven Berghuis (11) have reached double figures for Eredivisie goals for Ajax this term, so their former coach could be the man to get the best of the England man.

Luke Shaw

Ten Hag's Ajax team deployed their full-backs as a key attacking threat, with Argentine left-back Nicolas Tagliafico netting three goals during 2018-19's Champions League run.

Amongst Premier League defenders, only Trent Alexander-Arnold created more than the 72 chances crafted by Red Devils left-back Shaw during the 2020-21 season, and the England man could rediscover that form if unleashed by United's new boss.

Who might see their position threatened?

Harry Maguire 

The United skipper has faced much criticism for his role in another poor campaign for the Red Devils, and could be the first big-name casualty of Ten Hag's attempts to install a more progressive style of play.

No United defender has made as many errors leading to shots as Maguire in the Premier League this term (three), while his passing accuracy of 86.37 per cent is marginally lower than those of fellow defenders Raphael Varane (87.47) and Victor Lindelof (86.63), potentially marking out the England man as ripe for a replacement.

David De Gea

When another possession-hungry coach arrived in Manchester back in 2016, one of his first moves involved finding a goalkeeper he could trust to participate as his team tried to build from the back.

That man, of course, was Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, and Ten Hag could look to replicate his acquisition of Ederson by replacing De Gea. The Spaniard has recorded a pass accuracy of just 68.81 per cent in the Premier League this season, way short of elite rivals Ederson (88.35) and Allison (85.22).

Cristiano Ronaldo

Hear us out on this one. The legendary striker's goalscoring prowess remains unrivalled, and his 21 goals in all competitions since returning to Old Trafford last summer put him a long way clear of his nearest team-mate (Bruno Fernandes with nine).

However, the height of Ten Hag's success at Ajax came with Tadic used as a false nine in 2018-19, recording 10 goal involvements (six goals, four assists) during their thrilling European run. 

Besides, with Ronaldo's 140 strikes placing him at the top of the Champions League's all-time top goalscoring charts, can the 37-year-old really be expected to forgo playing in European football's premier competition if United fail to qualify? If not, a potentially tough decision regarding his future could be taken out of Ten Hag's hands.

After months of speculation, Manchester United have confirmed Erik ten Hag will take over as the club's new manager at the end of another frustrating season at Old Trafford.

The 52-year-old will have a huge job on his hands when he arrives this summer, with the Red Devils looking unlikely to qualify for the Champions League after struggling under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick this term.

High up on Ten Hag's to-do list will be deciding who amongst the current squad will be suited to playing his high-pressing, possession-based style of football.

Here, Stats Perform uses Opta-powered data to give an insight into three players who could impress under the Dutchman, and three who may find their days numbered after his arrival…

Who might star under Ten Hag?

Donny Van de Beek

An easy choice. Van de Beek emerged as a star under Ten Hag's tutelage at Ajax, and was a driving force being the Amsterdam giants' terrific run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19. Installed as a creative midfielder alongside Frenkie de Jong, Van de Beek scored three goals and provided two assists during that famous run, with only Dusan Tadic (six) outscoring him for Ajax in the competition.

Having played a paltry 381 minutes for United across 14 appearances this season before being sent on loan to Everton in January, the 25-year-old looks the most obvious player to benefit from the arrival of his former coach

Jadon Sancho

Another player likely to thrive under Ten Hag is England winger Jadon Sancho, who has registered five goals and three assists in 37 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils since moving from Borussia Dortmund last summer.

Only Bruno Fernandes (98) has created more open-play chances for United this term than Sancho (47), and he definitely stands to benefit from the arrival of a coach whose teams play with genuine width.

Each of Tadic (15), Antony (12), and Steven Berghuis (11) have reached double figures for Eredivisie goals for Ajax this term, so their former coach could be the man to get the best of the England man.

Luke Shaw

Ten Hag's Ajax team deployed their full-backs as a key attacking threat, with Argentine left-back Nicolas Tagliafico netting three goals during 2018-19's Champions League run.

Amongst Premier League defenders, only Trent Alexander-Arnold created more than the 72 chances crafted by Red Devils left-back Shaw during the 2020-21 season, and the England man could rediscover that form if unleashed by United's new boss.

Who might see their position threatened?

Harry Maguire 

The United skipper has faced much criticism for his role in another poor campaign for the Red Devils, and could be the first big-name casualty of Ten Hag's attempts to install a more progressive style of play.

No United defender has made as many errors leading to shots as Maguire in the Premier League this term (three), while his passing accuracy of 86.37 per cent is marginally lower than those of fellow defenders Raphael Varane (87.47) and Victor Lindelof (86.63), potentially marking out the England man as ripe for a replacement.

David De Gea

When another possession-hungry coach arrived in Manchester back in 2016, one of his first moves involved finding a goalkeeper he could trust to participate as his team tried to build from the back.

That man, of course, was Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, and Ten Hag could look to replicate his acquisition of Ederson by replacing De Gea. The Spaniard has recorded a pass accuracy of just 68.81 per cent in the Premier League this season, way short of elite rivals Ederson (88.35) and Allison (85.22).

Cristiano Ronaldo

Hear us out on this one. The legendary striker's goalscoring prowess remains unrivalled, and his 21 goals in all competitions since returning to Old Trafford last summer put him a long way clear of his nearest team-mate (Bruno Fernandes with nine).

However, the height of Ten Hag's success at Ajax came with Tadic used as a false nine in 2018-19, recording 10 goal involvements (six goals, four assists) during their thrilling European run. 

Besides, with Ronaldo's 140 strikes placing him at the top of the Champions League's all-time top goalscoring charts, can the 37-year-old really be expected to forgo playing in European football's premier competition if United fail to qualify? If not, a potentially tough decision regarding his future could be taken out of Ten Hag's hands.

Manchester United must improve their squad in all areas except the goalkeeper if they are to compete, according to Ralf Rangnick.

Rangnick was placed in interim charge at Old Trafford following the dismissal of club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in late November, though United's fortunes are yet to significantly change for the better.

The Red Devils sit three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and level with Arsenal, who have played a game fewer, in the race for Champions League football next season.

Qualifying for Europe remains the only way for United to salvage their campaign, after elimination from all the cup competitions and failure to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League.

The likes of Paul Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire have all been regularly scrutinised with regard to the problems at United, and Rangnick believes wholesale investment is needed in the squad.

The German boss also suggested the next permanent managerial appointment, with Ajax coach Erik ten Hag widely expected to take charge, will be key for United in the transfer market.

"The players have to give their very best no matter who the next manager will be, and if he's announced in one or two or three weeks, I don't think that this affects the current situation we're in," he told Sky Sports.

"But yes, of course, it's important to know who will be the new manager, because to start the recruitment process, to find the best possible players only makes sense if you know who will be the manager and how does he want to play.

"There might be a couple of players – and I have already named those players to the board – that independent of formation, from style of football, and independent of a new manager, that could be of interest for a club like United.

"But in general, if you look at the size of the way the team needs to be rebuilt, I mean, it's not enough to bring in three or four new players. It will be more, bearing in mind how many players will no longer be here with the contracts running out."

David de Gea has been a rare bright spark for a below-par United side this season, and Rangnick believes the goalkeeper is the only position that does not warrant significant improvement.

"Yes, I think apart from the goalkeeping, we need to make sure that we improve the squad in all areas," he added. 

"To bring in players who really help the team to get better – again, it's about the profile. What kind of players do we need in order to play whichever kind of football we want to play?"

The former RB Leipzig head coach suggests United can learn from Liverpool, who they face on Tuesday at Anfield, regarding their investment and scouting.

"With Liverpool, it's clear why they are playing as aggressive as they do – it's since Jurgen [Klopp] arrived," he continued. 

"If you compare the squad that he inherited six years ago and compare it with the present, I think there are maybe four or five players still there.

"All the others signed since then have been signed exactly under those premises: how do we want to play? They have to be able and willing to run and sprint a lot. They have to be physical. They have to be technical. They have to be clinical. The profile for each position has been clear and that's why they are where they are.

"And here at Manchester United, this hasn't been the case with every change of manager. New players came in, but it was not under that pre-condition of how do we want to play, and this is for sure something that needs to be changed in the future, but this doesn't help us.

"Now we have to play with the players that we have available and get the best out of them. It will be difficult for us at Anfield. We know that we have to raise our level to the highest possible that we can.

"Our ambition is to win that game, and this is how we are going into it."

David de Gea issued a damning assessment of Manchester United's quality and acknowledged it will be "very difficult" for them to finish in the top four. 

United succumbed to a surprise 1-0 loss to relegation-threatened Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, with Anthony Gordon's deflected strike proving to be the difference. 

Ralf Rangnick has now triumphed in just eight of his first 17 Premier League games as the Red Devils' boss, giving him a win percentage of 47% – the worst of any manager the club has had in the competition. 

It was United's eighth defeat of the season – only the eighth time they have lost that many games in a single campaign but the sixth since 2012-13. 

They could find themselves six points adrift of the top four by the end of the weekend, with De Gea admitting they lack the requisite quality to qualify for next season's Champions League. 

"We knew before today they were struggling and how difficult it was going to be," De Gea told BT Sport. 

"We don't score, we don't even create proper chances to score. I don't know what to say, to be honest. We're not good enough, that's for sure. It's going to be very difficult now to be in the top four. 

"Of course, it's not the perfect atmosphere. They were tired, they were nervous, but they keep going and keep fighting. They had more desire than us, which is not acceptable. It's very sad to lose today." 

Rangnick will move into a consulting role at Old Trafford at the conclusion of the season, with Ajax boss Erik ten Hag reported to be the frontrunner to take over. 

Mauricio Pochettino has also been linked with the role, but Rangnick does not believe the uncertainty can be used to excuse a dismal run of one win in seven in all competitions. 

"I don't think this should be an excuse. We are Manchester United. We have lots of international players. There shouldn't be an alibi," Rangnick said. 

"There will be a new manager next season. If this is announced now or in 10 days, it shouldn't have an impact." 

He added: "If you don't score a single goal in 95 minutes, we have to be disappointed. We had a good start and should have created more chances out of that domination. Then we concede a deflected shot and lost a bit of our composure. 

"The second half we were trying to add creativity with substitutions, but we didn't always take the right decision. 

"We had to do something. We needed a goal and we decided to bring on [Juan] Mata and more verticality with [Anthony] Elanga. 

"They were defending with their players in the last 35 minutes. We didn't find the right player at the right moment. We didn't have enough players in the box when we played crosses." 

David de Gea acknowledged that Manchester United are "far away" from where they want to be but vowed to fight back after their Champions League exit.

United crashed out at the last-16 stage of the Champions League after a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford on Tuesday condemned Ralf Rangnick's side to a 2-1 loss on aggregate.

That leaves United out of contention for silverware this season, last lifting a trophy in 2017 when they won the Europa League, with Rangnick's remaining goal being to secure a top-four finish.

The race for a spot in England's top four looks set to go to the wire. Arsenal, who occupy fourth and have played two games fewer than United, could be four points clear of the Red Devils by the time they are next in action at home to Leicester City on April 2.

De Gea called on his side to battle until the end of the season, knowing Champions League qualification is perhaps the only consolation that can salvage another disappointing campaign.

"It's taken me a few days to be able to talk about my intense disappointment from our Champions League exit," the goalkeeper, who was omitted from the Spain squad on Friday, wrote on Twitter.

"We didn't do enough over the two games but this is on us. We must use this as energy to improve ourselves, to learn, to achieve and challenge again. That is all we can do in this tough moment.

"I have said many times that we are far away from where we want to be, but we as players will go again for the remaining Premier League games."

While United - who parted ways with club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in late November - have underperformed this season, matters could have been made significantly worse without De Gea.

Only relegation battlers Leeds United (179), Norwich City (170) and Brentford (146) have faced more shots on target in the Premier League than United (143).

That has forced De Gea to make 105 saves, with Leeds' Illan Meslier (111) the only goalkeeper in the league to make more stops.

The excellence of De Gea stands out when compared to other goalkeepers in terms of the differential between expected goals on target conceded and the number of times they have been beaten.

Expected goals (xG) on target conceded, a way of measuring not just the quality of a chance but the quality of the attempt itself, when subtracted from goals against displays a goalkeeper's shot-stopping prowess.

De Gea has prevented 3.83 by that way of comparison, ranking only behind Wolves' Jose Sa (8.62) in the Premier League.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has been left out of the latest Spain squad by Luis Enrique, while Barcelona's Sergio Busquets is "rested".

La Roja play friendlies against Albania and Iceland during the upcoming international break, and Luis Enrique has replaced De Gea with another goalkeeper from the Premier League, Brentford's David Raya.

From the previous squad for the final World Cup qualifiers in November, in defence, Inigo Martinez and Jose Luis Gaya are replaced by Diego Llorente and Marcos Alonso, while Marcos Llorente and Pedri come in as midfield options in place of Busquets and Mikel Merino.

Raul de Tomas and Ferran Torres are selected among the forwards, with no place for Rodrigo, Pablo Fornals or Brahim Diaz.

Speaking at a media conference after the squad announcement, Luis Enrique said that Busquets' omission was merely to keep him fresh. The 33-year-old has played 39 games in all competitions for Barca this season.

"In the case of Busquets, it is a personal decision," he confirmed. "He is the player who accumulates the most minutes and I want to have the best version of the captain for the games in June, and I have decided to rest him.

"He is having a spectacular season."

The Spain head coach also said the two upcoming fixtures should not be treated like friendlies, and challenged his squad to show their "ambition" and "hunger" as the World Cup at the end of the year draws closer.

He added: "Since November, the wait has been long [to play again]. They are not friendlies for the players nor for us because the World Cup is close. It will help me to see the level of the players, their ambition, their hunger."

Spain squad in full:

Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez, David Raya; Marcos Alonso, Jordi Alba, Aymeric Laporte, Pau Torres, Eric Garcia, Diego Llorente, Cesar Azpilicueta, Dani Carvajal; Rodri, Koke, Pedri, Marcos Llorente, Gavi, Carlos Soler; Dani Olmo, Pablo Sarabia, Alvaro Morata, Raul de Tomas, Ferran Torres, Yeremy Pino.

Manchester United did not do enough in either leg to avoid Champions League elimination at the hands of Atletico Madrid, according to David de Gea.

A 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford on Tuesday ended United's chances of claiming silverware for the season – they have not lifted a trophy since the EFL Cup and Europa League double under Jose Mourinho in 2016-17.

The Red Devils trailed for most of the 1-1 draw in the first leg and struggled to create chances after Renan Lodi put Atletico ahead in the return fixture, with Cristiano Ronaldo failing to register a single shot on goal. It was only the third time that has happened in his Champions League career when featuring for 90 minutes, and the first time since May 2011.

Cristiano Ronaldo was back in the Manchester United team to face Tottenham on Saturday after missing the derby drubbing, but there was no Bruno Fernandes.

The absence of Ronaldo for last Sunday's 4-1 defeat to Manchester City sparked a fresh wave of speculation about the 37-year-old's United future.

It was put down to a hip problem by interim manager Ralf Rangnick, but former United captain Roy Keane was among those who questioned whether that told the full story.

Ronaldo's Manchester derby absence came after a run of one goal and zero assists in 10 games for United in all competitions this calendar year. That compares to 12 goals and three assists in his opening 19 games upon returning to United from Juventus at the end of August.

He was restored for the visit of Spurs, but Portuguese compatriot Fernandes was surprisingly not involved, three days before United tackle Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

Rangnick said: "Bruno is ill, unfortunately. He couldn't train yesterday and is therefore not available for the game. Hopefully, he will be back for Tuesday but, today, he is out."

NFL legend Tom Brady, a friend of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, was at Old Trafford for the game.

There was a United start for Marcus Rashford, whose own future has been cast into doubt by reports suggesting he could seek a move at the end of the season. He replaced Anthony Elanga, while Edinson Cavani was named on the bench after recent fitness worries.

Goalkeeper David De Gea featured for the home side after a COVID-19 false positive, while Raphael Varane was back from a coronavirus absence to start alongside Harry Maguire in central defence.

Rangnick told MUTV: "We had a false positive test on David De Gea last night. We then decided to have a second test that was negative and then a PCR test that was negative again, and that's why we can play him after all."

Manchester United great Paul Scholes was once again left questioning the club's wisdom in hiring Ralf Rangnick as interim manager after Sunday's 4-1 derby humiliation by Manchester City.

Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez got two goals apiece at the Etihad Stadium, as City restored their lead at the Premier League summit to six points over Liverpool.

United – without Cristiano Ronaldo due to a hip injury – started the game well and were good value for their 22nd-minute equaliser by Jadon Sancho, but thereafter it was one-way traffic as Rangnick suffered only his second Premier League defeat in 14 matches.

Despite that record, Scholes cannot get past Rangnick's lack of recent experience in coaching, having only actually been in charge of a team for two of the previous 10 seasons, instead spending much of his time as a sporting director.

Rangnick was hired as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's replacement at the end of November until the end of the season, at which point he will move into a consultancy role.

The move was initially widely praised as it seemed to suggest United were looking to establish an on-field identity that Rangnick would subsequently be able to influence with big-picture decisions, but Scholes is struggling to see the reasoning behind hiring him as the interim manager.

"What do we expect? We've brought in an interim coach who hasn't coached at an elite team," he told Premier League Productions.

"He hasn't coached a big team, he hasn't coached at a big football club like United where there's so much expected of Manchester United, whoever you're playing against, it doesn't matter. He's never been at a top club. He's coached a club for two years out of the last 10 years.

"How have United behind the scenes come to the conclusion that this man is going to be the right man for six or seven months? It baffles me. The players are lost on the football pitch.

"The first 20 minutes I was surprised, they played really well, they were comfortable on the ball, [Paul] Pogba up front looked alright. His [Rangnick's] subs have worked the last few weeks don't get me wrong, but it was a deflated team.

"As much as you can have a go at United, they were playing against possibly one of the best teams we've seen. In the second half, the players looked lost. They looked like they didn't have a clue what they were doing."

Prior to the weekend, Rangnick had been praised for improving United defensively. Before Sunday's hammering, they had conceded 10 goals in 13 league games under the German, having let in 21 in 12 with Solskjaer at the helm – only Norwich City and Newcastle United (27 each) had worse records at the time of the Norwegian's sacking.

But Scholes believes their change in fortunes at the back is a red herring, and the data seems to back him up to a certain degree.

David de Gea's saves since Rangnick's arrival have accounted for the prevention of six goals the average goalkeeper would not be expected to prevent, second only to Jose Sa (6.1).

Sa (192) is also the only keeper to face more shots than De Gea (180) in that time as well, suggesting United are not much better defensively than before – they are just relying on their goalkeeper's improved form.

"They were lucky it's not five or six. Again the goalkeeper, five or six saves," Scholes continued.

"We spoke before the game saying defensively since Ole's gone [Rangnick]'s shored things up – he hadn't. Never in a million years.

"He's kidding himself if he thinks that. The keeper has stopped him from getting batterings for a long time. [Sunday] was exactly the same."

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