Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side did not deserve to qualify for the Champions League next season after an embarrassing 1-1 draw at Huddersfield ended any hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.
United have now won just two of their past 11 games in all competitions leaving the decision to hand Solskjaer the job on a permanent basis in March open to question.
Chelsea’s 3-0 victory over Watford means United fall four points outside the top four with just one game of the season to go and are likely to end the campaign in sixth.
“We are all disappointed. We are not in the Champions League, I think that is a true reflection. The table seldom lies at the end,” said Solskjaer. Should Watford beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final, United now face having to start their season in Europa League qualifiers on July 25th.
“We gave ourselves a chance to be in the Champions League,” Solskjaer said of a run of 14 wins in his first 17 games in charge before the rot of the past few months set in.
“We got so many opportunities to grab third or fourth and weren’t able to. The Europa League is the right place to be for us next year.
“If City don’t win the FA Cup we’ll have a very bright and early start for the Europa League and it might make it more difficult.”
The Norwegian has bemoaned United’s lack of goals of late and recalled Alexis Sanchez to his starting line-up for the first time in two months in the search for more firepower.
But the Chilean again failed to live up to his status as the club’s highest earner before limping off just before the hour mark.
Former United captain Gary Neville described Sanchez as having “nothing left” in his television analysis and Solskjaer refused to rule out the possibility he has now played his final game for the club.
“There is a chance you’ve seen the last of players, there is always a chance it is the last time,” said Solskjaer. “Today wasn’t one individual that was disappointing, it was the whole team.”
Instead the visitors had to rely on Huddersfield for a helping hand for their only goal as Scott McTominay’s strike from the edge of the box went straight through Jonas Lossl’s legs after just eight minutes.
However, even against a Huddersfield side that previously registered just 14 points all season, United could not press home their advantage.
Juan Mata curled inches wide after some neat interplay between Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba before Pogba also saw a looping header come back off the crossbar.
Solskjaer had kept faith with David de Gea in goal despite three high-profile errors leading to goals in his previous four games and the Spaniard saved well from Karlan Grant to deny Huddersfield an equaliser just before halftime.
Huddersfield had only scored nine goals at home all season, but one hopeful punt from Lossl cut United open for the equaliser on the hour mark.
Luke Shaw failed to cut out the Danish goalkeeper’s clearance and allowed Mbenza a clear run on goal to slot between De Gea’s legs.
A lengthy delay then ensued as a new corner flag was found to replace the one Mbenza kicked over and snapped in celebration.And the wait at least gave United time to awake from their slumber.
Rashford and teenager Tahith Chong, who replaced Sanchez, forced Lossl into saves low to his left. Pogba then hit the crossbar for the second time in the game with a curling effort from the edge of the area.
But in their desperation for a winner, United could have succumbed to another stunning defeat as De Gea was called on to deny Grant a memorable winner.