Ralf Rangnick’s Manchester United can leapfrog West Ham into fourth with three Premier League points against overachieving Brighton at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening
Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has admitted fourth is the highest his team can finish in the Premier League this season.
The German’s concession comes just a month after Cristiano Ronaldo urged his team-mates to fightback and finish in the top three, above European champions Chelsea.
United are currently fifth in the Premier League but will move back into the Champions League places with victory against Brighton at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening.
Anything other than three points will seriously hamper their top four hopes, however, as Arsenal are currently just one point behind them with two games in hand.
West Ham, Wolves and Tottenham are also in the hunt for Champions League football.
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United’s hopes of finishing in the top three are extremely slim, as they sit seven points behind Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea having played the same number of games – 24.
Rangnick has reluctantly accepted this but maintains the Red Devils can catch the Premier League’s finest teams next season when his permanent successor is appointed.
The German will remain part of the set up at Old Trafford when he begins a two-year consultancy role in the summer.
“Right now, this is exactly what Manchester United needs and wants: to finish fourth in the league,” said Rangnick on Monday afternoon.
“I think this is the highest possible achievement we can get [domestically].
“The Champions League, hopefully to proceed into the next round of the Champions League, is not an easy one.
“In the league, it’s number four, that’s our ambition, what we have to achieve and what we’re aiming at.”
United’s last 16 opponents in the Champions League are La Liga champions Atletico Madrid, with the first leg set to take place in the Spanish capital on Wednesday, February 23.
Rangnick added: “Next season, after being here now for 10 or 11 weeks, of course, I know what it takes for next season.
“But it’s not the time now to discuss this with anyone, my full focus is on tomorrow, then Sunday, Wednesday and the next couple of weeks.
“My full focus is on the current squad, getting the best out of this season and then, after that, it’s time to speak about the next steps for next season and the next couple of years.”
Rangnick’s realignment of United’s targets will frustrate Ronaldo, who said he said he couldn’t “accept” anything other than a top-three finish just last month.
“Manchester United should win the league or be second or third,” the Portuguese icon told Sky Sports. “I don’t see any other position for Manchester United.
Daniel Chesterton/Getty Images)
“In my heart, I don’t accept that our mentality be less than being in the top three in the Premier League, in my opinion.
“I think to build up good things, sometimes you have to destroy a few things.
“So why not – new year, new life and I hope that Manchester [United] can be the level that the fans want. They deserve that.”
United have won just three of their eight games in all competitions since the new year, a run that includes an FA Cup defeat to Championship side Middlesbrough.
When asked if the players were to blame for their poor results, Rangnick said: “I don’t know.
“If you look at the current table, not only us, Arsenal, Tottenham and the other clubs, there is some reason. It is something to discuss at the end of the season.
“The players are ambitious and want to get better. They want to win. My job is to help them and show them a pathway.”
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