Ralf Rangnick says new Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag needs players who will “invest in the team spirit”, after defeat at Crystal Palace left the club with their lowest ever Premier League points tally.
Former United winger Wilfried Zaha scored the winning goal in the first half, latching onto a through ball and turning Diogo Dalot before drilling a low finish into the corner.
United finished the disappointing campaign in sixth place but clinched a Europa League spot despite the loss – as West Ham were beaten by Brighton – while Palace ended the season in a respectable 12th place.
Ten Hag was in the stands at Selhurst Park and will now take over a rudderless United side which is bereft of any leadership or confidence.
Rangnick, who was appointed as interim manager in November, said: “I think this team could do with more cohesion. There could be more togetherness on the pitch.
“This is also important when we think of new players – when the board together with the manager are thinking about new players – that we make sure they are not only players that have the quality to strengthen the squad but they are players who will invest in the team spirit.
“It was a new experience for me, not necessary coming in the middle of the season, but knowing that it would be an interim role. Unfortunately we didn’t have any pre-season and unfortunately we couldn’t strengthen the squad.”
The departing Edinson Cavani had a snapshot clawed out by Vicente Guaita and the Spanish keeper also brilliantly tipped over United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri’s first-time effort from the edge of the box.
Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp both had low shots kept out by David de Gea, but United’s number one could do nothing about Zaha’s 37th-minute goal, which nestled into the bottom corner.
Monumental job on Ten Hag’s hands
United will be thankful a forgettable 2021-22 campaign has finally come to an end after collecting 58 points, their poorest return since 1989-1990.
They finished last season in second place behind Manchester City, but ended this term four places and 16 points worse off than last year.
Ten Hag left his Ajax job early, but from what he saw from his new players in person for the first time in south London on Sunday, he will know he has a monumental job on his hands.
Reports of infighting between players, leaks to the media and complaining of their training schedule under Rangnick have left the Red Devils squad broken.
There could well be upheaval in the playing department too, with Cavani making his last appearance, Nemanja Matic confirmed as leaving in the summer, and first-teamers Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard all out of contract too.
After falling behind, United created few chances, with Bruno Fernandes’ form having tailed off particularly badly from last season as his side ended up losing their last six away games in the league.
United have ended with a goal difference of zero – but can take small comfort from qualifying for Europe’s secondary competition, which could lead to the Champions League should they go all the way and win it.
Rangnick is not due to leave Old Trafford completely next season, moving into a part-time “consultancy role” as well as managing Austria.
The German said: “These things happen and in hindsight it was a little bit bittersweet, or sweet bitter rather, because in the first couple of weeks and months we did well.
“We collected enough points with an average of 2.1 until the game against Atletico Madrid [in March] but I think that defeat in the Champions League was in a way like somebody popped the balloon.”
Promise for Palace
Patrick Vieira took over from Roy Hodgson last summer and his first season in the English top flight can be classed as a success, improving on Palace’s 14th-place finish from last term and reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
The Eagles are a vibrant team in attack and are marshalled at the back by solid Danish centre-back Joachim Andersen, who contributed six clearances and attempted more passes (44) than any team-mate against United on Sunday.
Conor Gallagher, with his all-action style of play, will leave a huge void in the middle of the park now his loan from Chelsea has ended. The England international had more touches (63) on the ball than any other Palace player, as well as having 18 duels and winning five fouls.
The victory represented a recovery from Palace’s capitulation at Everton on Thursday, when they led 2-0 at half-time but lost 3-2. And they have ended the season on a positive goal difference in the top flight for the first time since 1991, keeping five consecutive clean sheets at home in the Premier League for the first time since 1992.
Palace can go into the summer with plenty of promise, hoping acquisitions in the transfer market may push them towards a European position next season.
Vieira said: “It was the best way to end the season, to win the game against United because of what they represent in the Premier League.
“I was really pleased because we won and we had another clean sheet at home, so a good way to end the season.”
- 12HughesBooked at 43minsSubstituted forMcArthurat 83′minutes
- 49Rak-SakyiSubstituted forKouyatéat 67′minutes
- 22ÉdouardBooked at 63minsSubstituted forEzeat 79′minutes
- 9J Ayew
- 1de Gea
- 20DalotBooked at 59minsSubstituted forGarnacho Ferreyraat 79′minutes
- 2LindelöfBooked at 84mins
- 17FredSubstituted forShoretireat 75′minutes
- 18Bruno FernandesBooked at 90mins
- 46MejbriBooked at 44minsSubstituted forMataat 62′minutes
- 75Garnacho Ferreyra
Match ends, Crystal Palace 1, Manchester United 0.
Second Half ends, Crystal Palace 1, Manchester United 0.
Attempt missed. Scott McTominay (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right.
Shola Shoretire (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Joel Ward (Crystal Palace).
Scott McTominay (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by James McArthur (Crystal Palace).
Foul by Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United).
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United).
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Juan Mata (Manchester United).
Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by David de Gea.
Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United).
Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. James McArthur replaces Will Hughes.
Harry Maguire (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
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