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United finishes outside European spots despite winning last game in Premier League

Diogo Dalot Manchester United Diogo Dalot - The Canadian Press

BRIGHTON, England (AP) — Manchester United slumped to its worst-ever Premier League finish in eighth place and closed the campaign with a negative goal difference despite beating Brighton 2-0 away in their final game on Sunday.

Diogo Dalot and Rasmus Hojlund were the scorers for United at Amex Stadium as United finished outside the European qualification spots.

Finishing in sixth or seventh place would have confirmed a place in the Europa League or Europa Conference League, respectively, for United, the 20-time English champion. However, the two teams above United — Chelsea and Newcastle — both won elsewhere in the final round.

United could still get into the Europa League by beating Manchester City in the FA Cup on Saturday.

It was United's worst league campaign since coming 13th in the old First Division under Alex Ferguson in 1990.

“We have the best fans in the world and I mean this,” said United manager Erik ten Hag, whose team has endured an injury-hit season. “I have never had this experience when you have a season like us, which is by far not good enough, that the supporters are with us.

“They are with us in the bad season and in bad times they are there. I think also they know why the bad times are there. But we have to pay them back and we have to do everything to give them a trophy next week — but also for the future, we have to perform better.”

It was Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi's final match in charge of his team. He announced Saturday he'd be stepping down after Sunday's game.

While cross-town rival City was busy being crowned league champion for an unprecedented fourth season in a row, United overcame a poor first-half display to avoid setting a new record for the club’s lowest Premier League points tally.

Yet Ten Hag’s men still finished a difficult campaign, which brought 14 top-flight defeats, with a goal difference of -1.

Hojlund, the Denmark international, has hit 16 goals in his debut season, including 10 in the league, following his big-money move from Atalanta. Ten Hag said he hopes that tally increases at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

“It could always be better but don’t forget he had three injuries this season,” Ten Hag said of the 21-year-old Hojlund's contribution.

“He came in with the injury, missed the start, then he got injured before winter and then he got injured after winter. So every time that broke his rhythm and if you then shoot 16 goals for the first season it’s OK. And it’s not over, we have to play the FA Cup final.”

Following a series of fitness setbacks among this squad, Ten Hag believes he now has a positive selection headache as he contemplates his cup final lineup.

Center back Lisandro Martinez made his first start since early February on the south coast, while Raphael Varane returned to action as a substitute following more than six weeks out.

“I would say the manager and the coaching team have luxury problems, which is good,” Ten Hag said.


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