Ralf Rangnick has four games to prove Manchester United have a brighter future ahead of them

With seven Premier League matches remaining, Manchester United’s hopes of Champions League football next season are beginning to look desperate. Ralf Rangnick’s side are tasked with closing the six-point gap to fourth-placed Tottenham between now and the end of May.

But by the end of this month, that challenge may already be beyond United. They face relegation-threatened Norwich at home on Saturday, before matches against title-challengers Liverpool and top-four rivals Arsenal. All three sides still have something to play for, and that could well be United’s undoing.

Against Everton on Saturday, Rangnick’s side struggled to cope with the desire and fight of Frank Lampard’s side, as the Merseysiders won to boost their fight against relegation. United had looked to be mounting a strong top-four challenge in March, but in recent weeks their form has dipped.

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Since the massive 3-2 win over Tottenham, United have scored one goal in three matches and been eliminated from the Champions League by Atletico Madrid. Despite challenging for Champions League qualification, United were outfought at Goodison Park on Saturday and lacked the cutting edge as they drew 1-1 with Leicester at Old Trafford the week before.

In the next three matches, there is no doubt that Dean Smith, Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta will be firing their teams up for the final leg of their battle towards their end-of-season targets. Bottom of the table Norwich have to close a seven-point gap to remain in the Premier League and will be buoyed by their 2-0 win over relegation rivals Burnley on Sunday.

Tuesday’s opponents Liverpool defeated Benfica to progress into the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday and are still targeting a historic Quadruple, with just one point separating Klopp’s side and leaders Manchester City in the Premier League. While not having European football to contend with this season, Arteta’s Arsenal side have mounted a strong fight for the top four and will be eager to bounce back from recent defeats to Crystal Palace and Brighton.

If United manage to come through April with their top-four hopes still alive, Rangnick’s side face the test of Thomas Frank’s Brentford. After an impressive start to the season, Frank’s side slipped towards the relegation zone, but four wins out of their last five Premier League matches – including a shock 4-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge- have seen the Bees edge towards that golden 40 -point mark.

By the time Brentford travel to Old Trafford, they may already be safe, but if not, the hunger to achieve the guarantee of a second successive season in the Premier League could see the Bees become a difficult obstacle for United to overcome.

United have often been accused of showing a lack of fight this season, something Rangnick has attempted to address. With their Champions League hopes all but shattered, these next four games will be a big indicator as to whether the interim boss has succeeded in bringing the fight back to Old Trafford, thus setting them up for a brighter future.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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