Former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke believes incoming Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag needs to be given full control at the club if there are to return to the top of the English Premier League.

Ralf Rangnick said it is "completely false" to say he has been preparing a 'dossier' on Manchester United stars for incoming boss Erik ten Hag.

Reports had claimed Rangnick was working on such a file to hand over to Ten Hag, who will leave Ajax for the United top job at the end of the season.

Interim manager Rangnick was appointed in November and will have spent six months with United's players by the team he steps aside.

Ahead of United's Premier League game against Chelsea on Thursday, Rangnick flatly denied the existence of a dossier.

He told Sky Sports: "This is completely false, completely untrue. The board has never asked me to prepare a dossier, neither for the board nor for Erik.

"I also never said anything to nobody criticising the attitude of the players as being unprofessional or selfish. This is not true, I will always protect my players. I have never realised any issues of them being unprofessional or selfish."

Rangnick succeeded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United have continued to struggle to challenge for the Champions League places during the German's Old Trafford tenure, suggesting Ten Hag faces a difficult task when he steps into the role.

While there may not be a folder packed with information to pass on to the new boss, Rangnick will eagerly share the knowledge he has acquired when he talks to Ten Hag.

"I'm definitely looking forward to that. I definitely think it would make sense," Rangnick said.

"Erik is the manager next season and if he would like to get my opinion or hear something about how I assess the current situation, I'm more than happy to speak with him."

It remains to be seen what involvement Rangnick has at United once his temporary spell in charge ends.

United said, at the time of his appointment, that Rangnick would take on a consultancy role for two years, and that appears to be a role he is still planning to undertake.

"I've been talking to the board quite regularly and obviously we were also exchanging our impressions of the current situation," Rangnick said.

"For me it's important, together with Erik, together with the scouting department, we can build a new squad, a new group of players with quality and mentality that Erik, together with his coaching staff, will develop and lead this club into a range where supporters will want to see Manchester United."

United sit sixth in the Premier League and are guaranteed to stay in that position for now, whatever the result of the home clash with third-placed Chelsea.

They have won just nine of 20 Premier League games under Rangnick and have lost their last four away matches in the competition.

From the weekend of his first game in charge, his United side have gathered 33 points, with five teams (Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Newcastle United and Tottenham) having accrued more points over the same period.

Chelsea have one fewer point than United in the same period but have played just 18 games in this time.

For a number of years, a clash between Manchester United and Chelsea with less than a month of the Premier League campaign remaining would often be a defining one.

United's days of competing for – and regularly winning – the title are over for now, though, with the Red Devils languishing down in sixth place.

Indeed, following Saturday's 3-1 loss to Arsenal – their third defeat in four games – the Red Devils are also now effectively out of the race for a top-four finish.

While there is little to play for on the face of it, the remaining four matches at least provides Ralf Rangnick a chance to experiment before being replaced by Erik ten Hag.

Rangnick has admitted United need a huge squad overhaul if they are to compete for major honours again, but the club must also look to get more out of their academy products.

With that in mind, Stats Perform looks at some of the youngsters who may get a chance to shine when United welcome Chelsea to Old Trafford on Thursday.


Experience favoured over youth

Whether it be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or temporary successor Rangnick in charge, United have tended to avoid picking younger players this season.

The average age of United's starting XI in the Premier League in 2021-22 is 27 years and 200 days – only seven sides, Chelsea among them, have named older line-ups.

Once famed for giving youngsters an opportunity, United have used just four players aged 21 or under in the league this campaign, and one of those was a £73million signing in the form of Jadon Sancho (who turned 22 in March).


Hannibal hungry to impress

Hannibal is highly regarded at Old Trafford but has just six minutes of playing time to his name this season, coming late on in the recent 4-0 defeat to Liverpool.

That was the first indicator Rangnick had thrown in the towel and was ready to look to the future, and Hannibal certainly left his mark – albeit on a couple of Liverpool players.

The tenacious midfielder committed as many fouls as any United player at Anfield, despite being introduced late on, and was one of two players to be cautioned.

With fellow midfielders Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard all soon to make way, and Fred not fully fit, Hannibal may well get another opportunity against Chelsea.

Already capped 12 times by Tunisia at senior international level, now is the time for United to unleash the teenager's full potential while they have an opportunity to do so.


Shoretire set to star

Hannibal was one of four academy players that took part in training ahead of the Chelsea match, along with Alvaro Fernandez, Shola Shoretire and Will Fish.

Winger Shoretire is the most well-known of those youngsters, having made four appearances for United in all competitions.

He became the youngest player to represent United in European competition last year when featuring against Real Sociedad in the Europa League at 17 years and 23 days.

Appearances have been pretty fleeting since, though he also had a 22-minute run-out against the (appropriately named for this focus) Young Boys in the Champions League four months ago.

While others may have garnered more attention of late, Shoretire has continued to showcase his talents consistently for the Under-23s side and deserves a promotion.


Fish ready to scale new heights

The fact that Fernandez and Fish also took part in training with the senior players this week suggests that they will be part of the squad to face Chelsea at the very least.

Left-back Fernandez has been made to bide his time for a senior debut, whereas centre-back Fish made a cameo appearance in the Premier League under Solskjaer last year.

He was subsequently loaned to Stockport County ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, only to be recalled in January, though his time since has been spent with the reserves.

Tipped as a future star at the back for United since making his Under-23s debut at the age of just 16, Fish now needs the platform to showcase his talents at the highest level.


Garanacho grabbing attention

Unsurprisingly given their status as one of the biggest clubs in the world, United have a whole raft of talented teens that have been heralded as the next big thing.

Look no further than Alejandro Garnacho, who has been an unused substitute for the senior side's last three matches.

The winger is still aged just 17 and therefore has time on his side, but the early indications are that he could be a first-team regular in the next couple of seasons.

Charlie Savage, the son of one-time United academy product Robbie, is also on the cusp of being a first-team squad regular and has featured once already this season.

Zidane Iqbal was also given his first-team breakthrough under Rangnick in December, but has frustratingly – albeit understandably – had to bide his time for more senior minutes.

With nothing left to salvage in what has been another dire season, Rangnick could do a lot worse than turn to the next generation of talent to give supporters hope for the future.

Ousmane Dembele's signing for Barcelona had become emblematic of Josep Maria Bartomeu's turbulent presidency.

An untenably ballooning wage bill saw the club face bankruptcy in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions and in a need to cut wages, the French attacker has become an expendable asset.

However, Dembele is reportedly determined to make keeping him at Barcelona more feasible, despite being set to leave at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – DEMBELE OPEN TO BARCELONA WAGE CUT

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ousmane Dembele is prepared to reduce his salary in order to sign a new contract at Barcelona, Sport reports.

Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko and the Barcelona board reportedly met and the assertion was made that the France international was willing to take a pay cut to continue playing under Xavi.

Return on investment has always lingered over the 24-year-old attacker following his €140million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. 

Dembele has provided one goal in all competitions this season for the Blaugrana, but leads the team in assists with 11 from 28 appearances.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are looking to the Premier League to bolster their squad for next season, with Granit Xhaka, Douglas Luiz and Nemanja Matic all being considered, Calciomercato reports.

- Barcelona are also keen to sign Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski but no opening bid has been made yet, per Fabrizio Romano.

- The Athletic is reporting Manchester United are considering a £50m move for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

- Wayne Rooney has become to top candidate to replace the dismissed  Sean Dyche at Burnley on a permanent basis, according to the Sun.

Ralf Rangnick has acknowledged that no European football may make incoming Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag's first season easier, but vowed to continue fighting in the last four games.

United host Chelsea on Thursday in the Premier League with their Champions League hopes all but over, sitting six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who have played a game fewer than the Red Devils.

Rangnick's side are sixth and just two points ahead of West Ham, with a finish lower than seventh ensuring no European football next campaign, even in the Europa League or Europa Conference League.

That is barring any alterations to qualification permutations, should Liverpool, Manchester City, West Ham or Leicester City be successful in any of their respective European competitions.

While failure to qualify for continental club football may allow Ten Hag greater time to implement his style with a less gruelling schedule, Rangnick insists United want to win their four remaining league games.

"It could be an advantage, but that does not mean we will give away any of the remaining four games," Rangnick told a news conference on Wednesday.

"For us, it's clear and our obligation. This is our job, my job, the job of the players that we try to get the best possible results and then see at the end of the season in which position we will finish.

"Now to speak about if that would be an advantage or not does not make sense because if I did that then this would be interpreted again.

"For me, it's important we get results, that we play as good as we possibly can, because this will also affect the atmosphere and mood for the new season."

A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick inspired an otherwise underwhelming United past Norwich City in their last game at Old Trafford, but the home players were greeted with discontent within the stadium.

Sections of the United faithful could be heard questioning the commitment of the players, while Paul Pogba infuriated Red Devils supporters by cupping his ears to the Stretford End following boos.

Disappointing defeats at Liverpool and Arsenal followed a 3-2 victory over Norwich, but Rangnick believes the United fans will still get behind their team against Thomas Tuchel's visitors.

"I think in both away games the fans have still been supporting the team and also against Norwich," said Rangnick.

"There was that one issue with Paul Pogba, but apart from that I think the supporters were great also in the game against Norwich.

"I hope and also expect our supporters to be behind the team and supporting the team [against Chelsea]."

Ralf Rangnick has suggested incoming Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag puts the Red Devils captaincy to a players' vote, placing doubt over Harry Maguire's role as skipper.

Maguire was named captain following the departure of Ashley Young to Inter in January 2020, just five months after the centre-back's £80 million transfer from Leicester City – the world record fee for a defender.

England international Maguire has come under scrutiny for both his performances and captaincy, with United struggling in the Premier League and out of all cup competitions.

United are sixth in the league and unlikely to qualify for the Champions League, sitting six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal – who defeated Rangnick's side 3-1 on Saturday and have played a game fewer.

The future of Cristiano Ronaldo and seemingly outbound Paul Pogba remains in question, with several more players also out of contract at Old Trafford as Ajax coach Ten Hag prepares for a sizeable rebuilding task.

One of the Dutchman's first tasks will be deciding on the leader in the dressing room, and Rangnick has recommended United players vote on who their next captain should be.

Asked whether Maguire will retain the captain's armband next season, Rangnick told reporters: "Again, I understand your question but again, it doesn't make sense because we don't know what kind of players will be here, what the group will look like.

"I can only tell you what I have done in the past when I was head coach or manager because in Germany it's called 'Mannschaftskapitan' – the captain of the team.

"I strongly believe the captain should be elected by the team because he's called the team manager, and we always did that.

"We always had a board of four or five players – we called it the Spielerrat [players' council] – elected by the players. The player with the highest amount of votes was the team captain at the end. That was how I did it.

"I know a lot of head coaches don't do it that way. That's what I would do if I was still the manager next season but in the end, I'm not. This is something that Erik will have to decide."

Recruitment will also be a key factor for the rejuvenation of United, with Rangnick operating in a consultancy role alongside Ten Hag, who has previously suggested he demands some ruling over transfers.

Rangnick expressed his excitement to work with Ten Hag as the pair look to turn around United's fortunes next season.

"I strongly believe that there are a lot of things that can become better and will become better with a new manager and hopefully with some new players, with some fresh energy in that squad," he added.

"With this group of new players and the quality of players that are already here, together with the new manager, I am very positive that next season will be a lot better.

"I am looking forward to working in that advisory role and obviously helping Erik as much as he wants it himself.

"In my last two clubs, we never a signed a player without the approval of the manager and I'm pretty sure this will be the case with Erik.

"I'm also positive that Erik will make some suggestions, then together with the board, together with the scouting department and possibly myself, we will then hopefully decide the right players.

"Obviously, I am more than willing and prepared to help both Erik and whomever in the club in order to change everything for the better."

However, former RB Leipzig coach Rangnick is yet to speak with the incoming Ten Hag due to the latter's commitments with Ajax.

"[Ten Hag's] focus is on Ajax now and trying to win the title there, my focus for the next few weeks is on our club, on getting the best possible results," the German continued.

"Whenever he has time, or would like to speak, yes I am available, but I would not want to contact him on my own account now."

Erik ten Hag must be given "full control" to rebuild Manchester United, says former Red Devils striker Dwight Yorke.

Ajax coach Ten Hag signed a three-year deal with the option of another year to replace interim manager Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season when the German moves into a consultancy role at Old Trafford.

The 52-year-old will have a sizeable task on his hands in Manchester, with questions surrounding the captaincy of Harry Maguire, and the futures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba.

United also look set to fail to qualify for the Champions League next season, sitting six points behind fourth-place Arsenal, who defeated Rangnick's side 3-1 last Saturday and have played a game fewer.

Indeed, the Red Devils have not lifted a trophy for five years and Yorke called on Ten Hag to embrace the significant challenge in his new role.

"I think [Ten Hag has] got a very difficult job," Yorke told ESPN. "Simply because it has been a bit of a disaster for us as a football club in terms of personnel and where the team is at.

"There's no hiding place in that. We're not where we're supposed to be. But there's a new beginning, a new start for a manager who a lot of people don't particularly know.

"Obviously, he has done well in Holland. [But] the Premier League is a whole new ball game. Manchester United's manager is on a whole different level.

"You've seen the previous managers that have come there with big names and big reputations and they haven't really got over the line. There's no doubt the job at hand is something he needs to embrace."

Rangnick has previously suggested United may need up to 10 players to compete in the following campaign, with United expected to be incredibly active in the next transfer window.

While Rangnick is expected to oversee proceedings at the club, including transfer activity, in his consultancy role, Ten Hag has already insisted he would not have taken the job without some ruling over signings.

Yorke believes Ten Hag must be given time to succeed and full control to help United transform into a force to be reckoned with once again.

"I keep saying that he has to embrace going in there and have full control," said Yorke, who scored 48 times in 96 league appearances for United between 1998 and 2002.

"If he has full control he can implement his style, his way, and the players that he wants on board to make sure he can get the best out of them. I think that is the key.

"I think they will give him time, the fans are aware of that. But they want to see progress. I know people are saying it will take some time but ultimately they will want to see some progress along the way.

"I can only stand and watch and wish him the best in many respects. But there is no doubt this is the biggest job in world football and with the struggles we've encountered this season, there is no way that is going to be an easy task for him."

Ralf Rangnick is ready to turn to youth after revealing six first-team players have been ruled out of Thursday's Premier League meeting with Chelsea.

United's 3-1 defeat to Arsenal last week – a fourth straight away loss – effectively ended their chances of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League.

The Red Devils have four games remaining of another trophyless campaign before interim manager Rangnick is replaced by Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag.

Rangnick is expected to use his final month in charge to integrate some younger players into the squad, with Hannibal Mejbri and Shola Shoretire taking part in training this week.

And Rangnick's hand has been somewhat forced ahead of facing Chelsea as Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho have been ruled out with a knee injury and illness respectively.

Fred, Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw also remain out, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka will undergo a late fitness test on Thursday.

Asked if United fans will therefore get an opportunity to see the likes of Mejbri, Shoretire, Alejandro Garnacho and Alvaro Fernandez, Rangnick said: "It's possible.

"But we also have to be fair to those players – it has to be the right moment. They should have a chance to play well and perform well – we can't just push them into a game.

"We will try to play the best possible team of those players that are available. 

"Right now, it seems we have 14 in our professional team without the youngsters that are available and probably three or four of those young players will be part of the squad."

United have used only four players aged 21 or under in the Premier League this season, while the average age of their starting line-up is 27 years and 200 days.

Only seven sides, opponents Chelsea among them, have named an older average XI in the English top flight this campaign.

While United fans are eager to see some more youth in the side, Rangnick's main focus is on finishing as high as possible before bowing out.

"We have four more games to play," he said at Wednesday's pre-match news conference. 

"The next two games are at home at Old Trafford and we will try to get as many points and win as many games as we possibly can. 

"In order to do that we need to play on the best level we possibly can. Chelsea is a good team but we know that if we play well it's possible to win the game tomorrow. 

"I don't think it makes sense now to still speak and speculate about the Champions League places, we need to be realistic. 

"Even if we win all four games it's not in our hands. What is in our hands is how we play and our level of performance. It's important to finish on the best possible note."

United have lost three of their last four league games – more than they had in their previous 18 – and are six points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal having played a game more.

But Rangnick has warned his players they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves as they attempt to salvage some pride in their remaining matches.

"If results are not going well, the morale, energy in the locker room isn't as good as it would be, but still we have to perform, this is what we're getting paid for," Rangnick said.

"It's important for the players, knowing the new manager, to show we are able to beat a team like Chelsea. 

"This is our job, this is what everyone has to do and this is what we have been working for."

As focus slowly shifts towards the next transfer window, Rangnick suggested players will still want to join United even if they are not competing in the Champions League.

"It would be better if we played Champions League next season but this also affects other clubs; it's not only a problem Manchester United has," he said. 

"The renewal of the contract of Bruno [Fernandes] shows this is an attractive club. With a new manager, new approach, this is still a massively interesting club.

"I look forward to helping Erik and everyone at the club to get the best and change the whole approach next season so Manchester United can be a top club."

United are unbeaten in their last eight home league games against Chelsea (W3 D5), keeping five clean sheets in that run since a 1-0 loss in May 2013.

Erik ten Hag appears as though he will have a huge say over his own Manchester United transfer targets.

The Dutchman has inked a three-year deal at Old Trafford, with the option for a further year.

Ten Hag will officially take over on July 1, with Ralf Rangnick remaining in interim charge.

A face familiar to the Premier League could now be headed to Old Trafford with Ten Hag from Ajax…


TOP STORY - TEN HAG TO BRING HALLER TO UNITED

Manchester United may make a move for Ajax striker Sebastien Haller in the off-season according to The Sun.

Haller currently plays under ten Hag, who will take over at United at the end of the campaign.

The Ivory Coast striker, who spent two years with West Ham United, has netted 33 goals in all competitions for Ajax this term.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are optimistic that they can land Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski in the off-season, reports Sport. Lewandowski is contracted with Bayern until 2023.

- Liverpool have contacted 22-year-old Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni about a move to England, claims Foot Mercato.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Inter are not interested in signing Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic, contrary to reports. Pjanic is currently on loan at Besiktas from Barcelona.

- David de Gea and Manchester United are ready to enter into talks on a contract extension reports 90min.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Luka Modric will ink a new deal with Real Madrid running until 2023.

Paul Scholes regrets making a private conversation with Jesse Lingard public and says the midfielder has been "treated pretty poorly" by Manchester United.

Speaking on the back of United's 3-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday, Scholes revealed Lingard had told him the Red Devils' dressing room "is a disaster" and an "absolute mess".

That was United's fourth successive away league defeat, making this their worst such run since losing six on the spin between December 1980 and 1981.

Reflecting on his comments in the heat of the moment, Scholes admits he should have disclosed what Lingard had told him.

"I've had a little bit of stick for that. I don't know why I did it. Honestly, sometimes words just come out your mouth," he told talkSPORT. "I have spoken to him since and probably best I don't tell you what he said."

Lingard played the final 13 minutes at Emirates Stadium in what was his 16th Premier League appearance of the season, although just two of those have been starts.

The 29-year-old has been used 22 times in all competitions, totalling 548 minutes on the pitch – with 19 players having featured more than him.

With two goals and an assist, Lingard's goal involvement average of 0.49 per 90 minutes is bettered only by Paul Pogba (0.5), Bruno Fernandes (0.56) and Cristiano Ronaldo (0.77).

United reportedly prevented Lingard from joining either Newcastle United or West Ham, where he thrived on loan last season, in January and Scholes has criticised his former club's treatment of the academy product.

"I think Jesse has been treated pretty poorly by the club, to be honest," Scholes said. "He was ready to sign for Newcastle at one point and West Ham, right at the end of deadline day and he was told he was going to get more minutes. 

"That clearly hasn't happened. He's deserved a chance. We all saw what he did at West Ham. He's a really good footballer and can bring goals to a team and with this team playing so poorly as well, for him not to get a chance… I think he's unfairly treated."

Lingard has regularly been overlooked by both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and successor Ralf Rangnick, but Scholes is hopeful that will change under incoming boss Erik ten Hag should the midfielder be persuaded to sign a new deal.

"I think he might suit [Ten Hag] and he might want to keep him," Scholes said. "We will see what happens. It's obvious he never wants to leave Manchester United, and if this manager wants him then why wouldn't he stay?"

Riyad Mahrez could reportedly be sold by Manchester City in the upcoming transfer window, and some of the world's biggest clubs are said to be targeting the Algerian.

Mahrez, 31, has won the Premier League on three occasions, including once with Leicester City, and will make it four this season if Pep Guardiola's team can hold on.

After 38 Premier League goals for Mahrez over four campaigns with City, he could be facing a new challenge next season.


TOP STORY – MAHREZ MOVE TO MAKE WAY FOR HAALAND

Fichajes.net is reporting that Mahrez is one of the players City could part ways with to help fund the purchase of Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

The report names Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus as the three most likely landing spots.

Mahrez has scored 23 goals and dished out eight assists in 42 appearances across all club competitions this season.


ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are said to be closing in on a deal to sign Chelsea centre-back Antonio Rudiger on a free transfer. The Guardian is reporting his contract will be worth at least £200,000 per week.

– The Telegraph is reporting Manchester City are interested in making a move for West Ham's Declan Rice.

– According to Marca, Real Madrid remain favourites to land Kylian Mbappe when he is expected to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the next transfer window, but he will not make an official announcement until after the last game of his Ligue 1 season on May 21.

– Sky Sports News is reporting that Lionel Messi will remain at Paris Saint-Germain for at least one more season but that the French giants could consider letting Neymar move on.

– Barcelona would be willing to sell Frenkie de Jong for £58million, with Manchester United reportedly interested in bringing in the Dutch midfielder, according to El Chiringuito.

Arsenal's project under Mikel Arteta has taken positive steps this season, but the need for a striker remains.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette seemingly on the way out at the end of the season, that need could become even more pertinent.

If the Gunners achieve qualification for the Champions League however, Tammy Abraham's return to the Premier League could be on the cards.


TOP STORY – ARSENAL TO GO AFTER ABRAHAM

Arsenal are showing renewed interest in Tammy Abraham and are looking to bring him to the Emirates Stadium if they qualify for the Champions League, according to Star Sunday.

Mikel Arteta was very keen to sign the 24-year-old Abraham at the start of the season, before he left for Roma, who were able to guarantee a healthy salary and first-team football along with the chance to join Jose Mourinho.

Abraham has enjoyed a stellar first season in Serie A, contributing 15 goals and four assists in 33 league appearances.

While Chelsea can activate a buy-back clause at the end of the season, the Gunners would be willing to offer £50million (€59.5m) to secure Abraham's transfer.  


ROUND-UP

- West Ham have joined the race for Torino and Italy striker Andrea Belotti, whose contract expires at the end of the season, according to Fichajes.

- Real Madrid are in best position to sign German international Antonio Rudiger, who will leave Chelsea at the end of the season, Goal reports.

- Frenkie de Jong has been linked with a move to Manchester United, where he would reunite with incoming coach Erik ten Hag, per the Manchester Evening News.

- Ten Hag is also reportedly keen on signing Christian Eriksen, whose six-month deal with Brentford expires at the end of the season, according to Star Sunday.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was overjoyed to see how much Granit Xhaka's relationship with the fans has improved after his starring role in Saturday's defeat of Manchester United.

Xhaka got Arsenal's third goal at Emirates Stadium, drilling in from long range to put the game beyond the Red Devils.

United had previously threatened to wipe out Arsenal's lead, which had been 2-0 in the first half before Cristiano Ronaldo's well-taken goal.

But Xhaka's strike dulled United's momentum, and the Switzerland international enjoyed a rapturous ovation when he was withdrawn towards the end of the Gunners' 3-1 win.

It marked a significant change in fortunes for Xhaka from when he routinely seemed to be at odds with the fans, revealing recently in an article for the Players' Tribune that he nearly left the club over "pure hate" from supporters, claiming his bags were packed in December 2019.

"I was dreaming of that [ovation] because he deserves it," Arteta told reporters after Saturday's win.

"If any fan would individually spend five or 10 minutes with Granit, or even two minutes, because that's all you need, they would understand the person that he is, the professional that he is and how much he cares about the club. But the history was there.

"I think he made, I would say a risky move, when he opened up and expressed completely his feelings, but as well he's done that because he's prepared.

"He feels that environment is going to protect him. He feels loved at the club and the response I think it was great.

"Thank you to the fans for showing that appreciation to him because I know how much that means to him."

There has been a massive overhaul of players at Arsenal over the past few years, reflected by the fact Arteta has consistently named the youngest starting XI on average this season.

Xhaka, 29, is something of an outlier in terms of age and experience, and it was put to Arteta that the midfielder's longevity was somewhat surprising given his past issues.

"We need some balance in everything that we do, especially with the characters and the personalities that are in that team," Arteta said of Xhaka's continued association with Arsenal.

"With the youth academy players that we are bringing in, with the signings that we made, with the quality that we had on and off the field, Granit in my opinion was going to have a key role and he was going to have a key leadership role to achieve what we wanted."

Paul Scholes claimed Manchester United's dressing room is "an absolute mess" as the Red Devils' poor form continued with a 3-1 loss at Arsenal on Saturday.

United's hopes of finishing in the top four of the Premier League were all but ended at Emirates Stadium as they fell to a third defeat in four top-flight outings.

Cristiano Ronaldo's 100th goal in the competition was not enough as Nuno Tavares' opener, a Bukayo Saka penalty and Granit Xhaka's 25-yard drive earned victory for Arsenal.

The Red Devils, who saw Bruno Fernandes miss a penalty, have now lost four straight away league games for the first time since a run of six between December 1980 and 1981.

Reflecting on United's latest setback, club legend Scholes claimed his former side are in disarray behind the scenes as he opened up on a recent chat with Red Devils star Jesse Lingard.

"It is an absolute mess," Scholes told DAZN. "It is a disaster of a dressing room.

"I had a quick chat with Jesse the other day, and I'm sure he won't mind me saying that the dressing room is just a disaster."

United are six points adrift of the top four, having played one more game, and interim manager Ralf Rangnick has conceded that Champions League qualification hopes are over.

Asked about Scholes' comments, Rangnick – who will be replaced by Erik ten Hag at the end of the season – insisted there is no major issue with the dressing room.

"Obviously after games like today or the games at Liverpool or Everton, there is massive disappointment in the locker room for sure. This is normal," Rangnick said.

"But it would be rather a problem if that was different, so this is for me normal. I think the whole group, they get on reasonable with each other.

"I'm not daring to say they get on well with each other, but I don't see that there is an issue with regard to the atmosphere in the locker room."

United have conceded 51 league goals this season, making it only the second time they have shipped 50 or more in a single Premier League campaign (54 in 2018-19).

Next up for Rangnick's side is a home match against Chelsea on Thursday, followed by the visit of Brentford four days later.

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick conceded his team's hopes of Champions League qualification are over after Saturday's 3-1 loss to Arsenal.

A top-four finish already looked unlikely for the Red Devils after their 4-0 humiliation by Liverpool at Anfield in midweek, but their trip to the Emirates Stadium saw them go up against a direct rival.

While United's performance was undoubtedly an improvement on their horror show on Merseyside, Rangnick's men fell 2-0 behind in the first half thanks to an early Nuno Tavares goal and Bukayo Saka's penalty.

Cristiano Ronaldo pulled one back with his 100th Premier League goal before Bruno Fernandes hit the post from the spot – that was one of three occasions United were denied by the frame of the goal, as Diogo Dalot hit both the upright and crossbar.

Arsenal finished United off slightly against the run of play when Granit Xhaka blasted home from distance with 20 minutes to go.

Victory leaves the fourth-placed Gunners six points ahead of United, while the former also have a game in hand, and Rangnick was frank in his assessment of the situation.

Asked if the top four was out of reach for United, Rangnick told BT Sport: "Pretty sure. For me, even before the game it wasn't likely, but after today's result, the top four is gone, yes."

This was United's first game since Erik ten Hag was confirmed as the club's next permanent manager, news that dominated the build-up to the match from the Red Devils' perspective.

The consensus has been that Ten Hag faces a massive rebuild at Old Trafford, with Rangnick previously suggesting United might need to sign as many as 10 new players.

But Rangnick did not feel United's performance on Saturday highlighted any new issues, while the German – who has been extremely critical of his players at times lately – even praised the team's attitude.

"There is a lot of work for sure [for Ten Hag], we knew before the game," Rangnick continued.

"But we also showed what kind of football we can play, and although we had to deal with the two early goals, we still showed the attitudes.

"So there is nothing about the attitude of the players that we should fault today."

Nevertheless, Rangnick was frustrated by United's feeble defending once again, though he tempered that by questioning the validity of some VAR decisions.

Among them, Xhaka's strike was allowed to stand despite replays suggesting Eddie Nketiah was in David de Gea's line of sight and an offside position, while United were denied a first-half penalty despite Cedric Soares clearly blocking the ball with his hand while crawling.

"The only weak side of the performance was we didn't defend well in and around the box," he said. "The same happened when we conceded the second and third goals, but for me there were three very unlucky, let's put it that way, VAR decisions.

"For me the third goal of Arsenal was clearly offside, you can see it in slow-mo. David said to me he couldn't see the ball.

"The second goal of Cristiano was definitely not offside and there was another handball decision in the first half, so we were not very happy with those VAR decisions in the end. It was an improved performance but disappointing result."

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