Manchester United have their own fate in their hands on Sunday evening as a victory over Crystal Palace would seal qualification for next season’s Europa League, a goal set by interim boss Ralf Rangnick ahead of the 90-minute encounter.
West Ham, placed in seventh just behind United, trail by two points and have a superior goal difference and will need to better United’s result if they are to steal that final Europa League spot.
Missing out on Champions League football is a huge disappointment but speaking ahead of the game, Rangnick outlined the importance of playing in the Europa League over the Europa Conference League.
“Yes,” he told the official Manchester United website when quizzed on whether it was important to qualify for the Europa League.
“I mean it’s bad enough that we aren’t going to play on a Tuesday and Wednesday night in the Champions League, but knowing that we are going to play Thursday evening, I think it’s important, even more so for the players, also for our supporters that we qualify for Europa League because in Europa League, Manchester United reach the final the season before.
“The last season they played in the final against Villarreal and Frankfurt won the Europa League two days ago in style, qualifying for Champions League. This is why I think it’s very important to qualify for the Europa League.”
The only positive to playing in the Europa Conference League would be the opportunity to add a new trophy to the cabinet but United will be desperate to avoid a scenario where they drop into Europe’s third-tier competition.
Make no mistake about it, this year has been disastrous for Manchester United and Erik ten Hag, the incoming manager, has quite the job on his hands but he will be keen to feature in the Europa League.
There’s also an added incentive to taking part in the Europa League, with the winner sealing a spot in the following year’s Champions League – the same route United took into the competition in Jose Mourinho’s first season.