Ralf Rangnick hopes to bring the curtain down on his interim reign by securing Europa League qualification in front of new Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag, who he will meet this weekend after detailed WhatsApp conversations.
A sense of hope around Old Trafford at the start of the season quickly disappeared, with 1999 treble hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked in November and his temporary replacement failing to get things on track.
United have long since been out of the race for Champions League qualification and head to Crystal Palace on Sunday knowing they have to match West Ham’s result to avoid falling into the Europa Conference League.
Rangnick’s sixth-placed side are two points better off but have a far worse goal difference as they head to Selhurst Park wounded by the 4-0 humiliation at Brighton a fortnight ago.
“We once again, unfortunately, have quite a few players missing and another couple of players with question marks,” said Rangnick, with the availability of Jadon Sancho, Phil Jones, Alejandro Garnacho and Luke Shaw in doubt.
“We have to wait for tomorrow’s last training session. As it stands now there will be quite a few players missing but I’m still positive that we’ll have a strong starting line-up and finish the season on a higher note than we did at Brighton.
“I am positive that the players want to get things right and show and prove to everybody that they are capable to play a lot better than we did at Brighton.
“I am also positive that they would much rather player in the Europa League than in the Conference League.
“I mean, for sure they will have to play Thursday evening rather than Tuesday or Wednesday but I think it’s still a big difference if a club like Manchester United plays in the Europa League rather than the Conference League.”
Ten Hag, who officially starts as manager on Monday, will be at Selhurst Park and has begun picking the brains of Rangnick, who will move into a consulting role at the end of the season.
“We’ve been in contact via WhatsApp and we hopefully will have the opportunity to speak and meet in person, either over the weekend or on Monday morning at the latest,” the interim boss said.
“I’m looking forward to speaking with him and getting to know him in person.”
Rangnick has been outspoken on the issues facing United, who he has previously said need open heart surgery before they can challenge for major honours again.
“I still strongly believe that there is a core of players who are top, who are well worth and good enough to play for this club and hopefully most of those players will still be here next season,” he said.
I'm more than positive and I can hopefully be encouraging our fans and positive to our fans that we will bring Manchester United back to the topRalf Rangnick
“If the board, Erik, the scouting department – and I will help them with all the issues that I can help them – if we bring in the right mentality players, the right quality players, I’m positive that we will be able to bring this club back not only on track but also back to the top.
“This is what it’s all about in the next couple of weeks. Maybe it will not happen or be possible in one transfer window but I’m very positive that it can happen in the next two or three windows.”
Asked if had spoken to Ten Hag about his consultancy role, Rangnick said: “We spoke about that in detail, about all the different areas where I could maybe be of help.
“It’s not that difficult to know in which areas this could be.
“I think we showed that in the last 15 years, with Hoffenheim, Salzburg and Leipzig that even for clubs who are not as prominent as Manchester United that it’s possible to identify, develop and then even at one stage sell.
“I know that Manchester United should normally not be a selling club but rather a developing club – this is possible and this is what is most important.
“That the club finds players for whom it is the next logical step in their career, to develop their sporting career.
“If that happens, again, I’m more than positive and I can hopefully be encouraging our fans and positive to our fans that we will bring Manchester United back to the top.”