Manchester United were given a harsh reality check on Sunday afternoon as they were convincingly beaten 6-3 by Manchester City in the Premier League.
The Red Devils went into the 188th Manchester Derby in good form with four straight league wins, but they simply could not compete with Pep Guardiola’s side.
The rock-solid defence which paved the way for recent victories looked out of depth while there was hardly any threat in the final third during the opening half.
With the humbling result, United find themselves seventh on the table with 12 points, two adrift of Brighton & Hove Albion for the final Champions League spot.
Erik ten Hag will have his sights on a top-four league finish at least this campaign, but it is quite clear that United can’t simply rely on Chelsea and Liverpool being poor.
As things stand, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur deserve to be in the top three alongside City and are strong contenders to make the top four when the season ends.
Hence, it looks like a fierce battle between Chelsea, Liverpool and United for the last Champions League place and the Red Devils obviously can’t depend on their rivals.
Chelsea and Liverpool are currently on 13 points and 10 points respectively as things stand, but it only requires a strong run from either club to jump into the top four.
United have shown in recent weeks that they are also Champions League candidates, but can ill-afford to go into another winless streak and must respond to the latest defeat.
There are six more league games before the World Cup break where they face the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham. It could be a defining period for United in their top-four quest.
The players responded superbly after the opening two losses. Ten Hag will be anticipating more of the same as United aim to break into the Champions League spots for the first time.
If they manage to do so by the World Cup, it would provide an ideal platform for Ten Hag and hopefully, the board will back him with funds to reinforce the squad further in January.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com
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