(Reuters) - Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side can have no complaints about finishing outside the Premier League’s top four after their fate was sealed by a lacklustre 1-1 draw at bottom club Huddersfield Town on Sunday.
Needing six points from their last two games, and results to go their way, United were always facing a tough task to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
But a failure to beat a side who had managed only 14 points in their previous 36 games, just about summed up the malaise United find themselves in as the season ends in an anti-climax.
“We haven’t deserved to be top four, we’ve chased the pack and been given chances, the league is so tight. When we got the opportunities we didn’t take them,” Solskjaer, who initially sparked a spectacular change in fortunes after Jose Mourinho was sacked in December, told the BBC.
“The table doesn’t lie in the end.”
United, runners-up last season, have seen Manchester City and Liverpool, vanish into the distance this season, and Solskjaer, who was given the job on a permanent basis in March, faces a huge challenge to close the gap next season.
It will involve major surgery to the squad with captain Antonio Valencia certain to move on and midfielders Ander Herrera and Juan Mata out of contract.
The club must also decide what to do with under-performing players such as Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku.
There were glimpses of a brighter future on Sunday from the likes of Scott McTominay, who scored United’s goal, and substitute Tahith Chong but that was scant consolation to the fans who trudged out of the ground.
Former defender Gary Neville did not hold back during his role as co-commentator for Sky Sports.
“This is Huddersfield Town who have struggled all season. Watch this Huddersfield team, they haven’t got the quality, but I like watching them a lot more than watching the ones in the red shirts to be honest with you,” Neville said.
“At least you can identify with them. Nothing about this United team I like at all. They’re just awful. They’re a despondent group of people.”
United have won just one of their last six league games and were dismantled by Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals. Next year they will be in the Europa League, a level Solskjaer says is fair indicator of where United are.
“Europa League is probably the right place for us this season,” Solskjaer said. “The Europa League can be a positive — look at what Arsenal and Chelsea (who are both in the semi-finals) have done this season.”
Captain Ashley Young said it was a “massive disappointment” for the club to finish outside the Champions League spots.
“This feels like a defeat,” Young said. “I don’t know what the problem has been. Right now we can’t put our finger on it.
“When you talk about a club like Manchester United fighting for the top four it’s not what you want to be talking about. We should be talking about winning titles and trophies and that’s the disappointment.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar