Neil Custis: Man Utd’s best bet for the future is to finish EIGHTH… luckily they are bad enough to make it happen

THE position Manchester United need to finish in now is well within their grasp.

Even this team could not make a hash of it. Eighth spot and no European football next season is there for the taking.

Manchester United turned in yet another lacklustre display against Everton
The Red Devil’s abysmal display at Goodison summed up their entire season
And they’d be wise to save themselves another headache and miss out on the Europa League

That place is currently held by Wolves, who are two points behind the seventh-placed Red Devils having played a game more.

But United can make that up easily the way this team is playing. The very last thing they need is that seventh-placed Europa Conference League place.

Nobody at Old Trafford will admit it but they really do not want the Europa League either.

Yes, that night in Stockholm in 2017 when they won it against Ajax was a good one.



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But does anybody remember the rest of that campaign?

There is still something odd about the club celebrating any result in Europe outside the elite competition of the Champions League, no matter how far they have fallen.

And they have really fallen — and there is still some way yet to go. There is worse to come between now and the end of May, a lot worse, have no doubt.

Seven games left, among them trips to Liverpool and Arsenal, while Chelsea still have to visit Old Trafford.


Mind you, would you bet a quid on them beating rock-bottom Norwich at the Theatre of Nightmares on Saturday?

For a long time, there has been talk of the need for a clearout, a new identity to the team and a manager being given time to enact all that.

Erik ten Hag is the man to do it and he will get a major boost if his midweeks are free from trips to the likes of Kazakhstan in November — I am still thawing out.

That extra time on the training ground will be vital as he gets to know the players and they get to know his methods.

An exhausting pre-season trip to Thailand, in sweltering humidity, and then Australia is hardly going to provide that.

David Moyes began life as the new boss of United on the back foot due to a red-eye record tour of Thailand, Australia, Japan and China.

One which still had the players asking “What time is it?” come November.

Still, needs must when the big bucks are on offer for the biggest club in the world and the brand needs to be seen in all corners.

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag will be at the Old Trafford helm next season

While the lack of European football may be viewed as another step back for some, it could well lead to two or three steps forward.

Look at this season and how Arsenal have benefited from being out of the Europa League.

Meanwhile, Leicester’s endless campaign of Europa League and then Europa Conference League has already added 12 games to their rota and counting.

In the meantime, the Foxes have been dragged back into mid-table mediocrity.

Arsenal have begun to grow again under Mikel Arteta, with a recent run of six league wins from seven evidence of that before defeats to Crystal Palace and then Brighton on Saturday.

United need to do what Arsenal have done: take a step back, accept where they are and grow again, rather than rail against everyone and everything at the dying of the light.

United are stuck in a darker tunnel now than at any time in over three decades.

But with a club this size, there should always be light at the end of it.

Another Europa League campaign would cause more problems for the Red Devils

Ten Hag said something very interesting when he talked about his task of taking Ajax back to the top when he took over at the club.

He said: “In Amsterdam, there is also the superiority. The ‘We are Ajax!’ mantra. I see the benefits of this, don’t get me wrong but I also see the danger.”

Indeed, for United, the history brings expectation but also the extra pressure that goes with it.

There has also been a belief since the early post-Sir Alex Ferguson years that things will right themselves just because this is Manchester United.

The club needs to start again, rather than believe they will begin next season in a title race.

Is there the patience for that, though? Well everyone has run out of patience with this lot.

Beaten by an Everton side that had increasingly looked like being doomed to the drop.

Anthony Gordon’s deflected shot off Harry Maguire in the 27th minute was the difference.

In truth, there was a much bigger difference between a side who wanted it and one who gave up caring the moment Atletico Madrid ended their Champions League dreams.

That is why there will be no return to European football’s elite competition next season.

As manager Ralf Rangnick said after the game at Goodison: “The players should be eager to play Champions League but as long as we play like today, they don’t deserve it.”

As ever, the same old “blah, blah, blah” about it not being good enough came from inside the camp.

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The same old understandable criticism from the fans had already begun on social media long before the final whistle.

Just let it all end, celebrate eighth and start again.



By: Chisanga Malata
Title: Neil Custis: Man Utd’s best bet for the future is to finish EIGHTH… luckily they are bad enough to make it happen
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Published Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2022 20:08:59 +0000

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