Manchester United face uphill task to reach Champions League, admits Fernandes

AFP , Monday 4 Mar 2024

Bruno Fernandes admits it will be tough for misfiring Manchester United to qualify for the Champions League after an 11th Premier League loss of the season at Manchester City.

Manchester United s Scott McTominay, left and Manchester United s Bruno Fernandes react after Manchester City s Phil Foden scored his side s second goal during an English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Sunday, March 3, 2024. AP

Marcus Rashford fired unfancied United into a shock lead at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday only for two goals from the outstanding Phil Foden and a stoppage-time Erling Haaland strike to seal a 3-1 win for the defending champions.

It was the first time that City had ever come from behind to beat United in a Premier League match and the visitors suffered their first defeat in a league game in which they led at half-time since 2014.

Only twice in the Premier League era have United lost more than 11 matches in a season -- 12 in 2013/14 and 2021/22.

The chastening loss at the home of their cross-town rivals leaves United 19 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool with 11 matches remaining.

But Erik ten Hag's side are facing an uphill battle even to secure a return to the Champions League, which they exited at the group stage this season.

United sit sixth, 11 points off fourth-placed Aston Villa and six points behind Tottenham, who have a game in hand, in fifth spot, which could yet be enough for Champions League qualification.

"We need to look forward," Fernandes told MUTV, as attention turns to Saturday's encounter with embattled Everton at Old Trafford.

"We don't depend only on ourselves to get in the positions we want. We're not hiding from that.

"We want to be in the Champions League, we want to try until the end of the season to get into that fourth place.

"That gives you the possibility to be in the Champions League, so we know it's going to be hard, but we have to do everything that is on our hands that we can do."

The Portugal international said United's fans would give the team a major boost on home soil.

"Going to the next game at home, we know that our fans will be there again, over and over again. They're being behind us, they push us and next game we have to go there and win that game."

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