Ralf Rangnick says finishing fourth is the “highest possible achievement” for Manchester United.
United let another half-time lead slip as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton at Old Trafford and missed the chance to go fourth in the Premier League.
It was the fourth time in six games that United have failed to win after being ahead at the interval.
When it was put to Rangnick that fourth is not what a club like United really wants, the interim manager said: “Right now, it is exactly what United needs to want. I think this is the highest possible achievement we can get.
“The other thing is to hopefully proceed in the Champions League. In the league, it is currently number four that is our target and what we are aiming at.
“Of course, I know what it takes for next season but that is not the focus at the moment. The only thing to do is to focus on the current squad and then get some answers.”
Rangnick believes his players are suffering from a lack of confidence and has asked club psychologist Sascha Lense to help change the mentality among his squad.
“It is pretty obvious if you are 1-0 up in 11 out of 13 games and you win half of them and in three consecutive games you concede an equaliser then it also affects the minds of the players,” he said.
“They think they should be 2-0 up or 3-0 up and it is 1-1 – it affects the players. We have to be more effective to score the second and third goal and kill the game off. But if it doesn’t happen then we have to be disciplined.
“You can understand that it affects the confidence of the players. The only thing we can do is speak to the players one by one and explain to them why.”
Rangnick added: “It’s clear the players are getting it. It started with Aston Villa [victory in the FA Cup] and since then the players feel and understand the job. They now need to do it sustainably.
“The first half over the last couple of weeks has been very good. We didn’t concede a single goal. The next step is to raise our level physically, tactically, mentally. It was too easy [for other teams to score against us] and also our own mistakes that we made let the other teams score.”
Asked if United’s problems were more to do with the players rather than the manager, Rangnick said: “I don’t know. If you look at the current table, and the gap to other teams like Arsenal and Tottenham and the top two or three, there are probably some reasons why they are that far ahead.
“It’s something talk about in June I’m not sure if it’s about the players, they are ambitious they want to work hard and they want to win.”
Sky Football pundit Gary Neville:
Manchester United were terrible chasing the game and chasing a goal against Southampton. They were giving fouls away, they were stopping the game. They were forcing it and crossing from poor areas.
You can’t put your finger on one thing when you watch United nowadays. Every day feels like a soap opera. You hear the players want Mauricio Pochettino, then Cristiano Ronaldo’s going to leave.
The last few weeks have been terrible in terms of off-the-pitch incidents. On the pitch, I saw Ralph Hasenhuttl’s quote after the game which I think is the biggest criticism you can have levelled at you as a sportsperson or an athlete – saying that you don’t work hard enough.
He said essentially that not everyone mucks in when the reverse gears are put on. If I was a Manchester United player and had that said about me by a respected opposition manager, that would bite deep.
The reason I don’t think it’s disrespectful is because it’s coming from someone with authority and it’s the feeling in the league.
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