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Premier League: Red Devils struggling in top-four quest

Man Utd's summer spending spree brought with it a feel-good factor in the summer, but there is little for supporters to shout about at the moment.

The Red Devils opened the cheque book to sign Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, two individuals it was hoped brought help get the club back to the top of the game and result in a successful campaign.

The opening weekend was a dream start for United as they thumped rivals Leeds 5-1 before they then got the chance to unveil Varane on the pitch at the "Theatre of Dreams".

Things got better for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, as United managed to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo, clutching him from the grasp of neighbours Man City.

So with Sancho, Varane and Ronaldo through the door, what could go wrong?

Fast forward six months and United have changed manager and, instead of a potential title charge, they now have their work cut out for a top-four finish.

Southampton draw shows United issues

United are one of two teams playing twice this week, and Ralf Rangnick's side had the perfect chance to gain ground on their rivals in the race for the top four.

With West Ham not in action until Sunday, United had the chance to climb above them into the top four, but another sloppy display saw them share the points in a 1-1 draw with Southampton.

Rangnick's side have now drawn their last two games 1-1 in the top flight, and the German says the club's fans have to accept their current plight.

He told BBC MOTD: "It was very similar to previous games, unfortunately. It is the fourth game where we were ahead but took one point instead of three. It is difficult to take, but we have to accept it.

 "We have to understand where we are. [Southampton] won 2-3 at Tottenham, and they expected to win easily. We got a point today; we expected three and needed three, but that is the situation. That is why there was a change of manager and why we are here."

While Rangnick does not pull any punches with his comments, his words don't exactly suggest he expects a turnaround - which begs the question, where are United going this season?

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Momentum with United's rivals

The race for the top four looks like it will come down to one spot, with Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea clear of their rivals.

West Ham have started to make hard work of their top-four efforts, but the issue with both the Hammers and United is they have played 24 games.

Only Brentford have played more than both, and that gives Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolverhampton the chance to close the gap.

At the minute, both Arsenal and Tottenham look to have a huge chance of playing Champions League football next season while, for now, it looks like United are treading water.

Ronaldo's lack of goals is a worry for the club, but the Portugal international did have a goal disallowed for offside against Southampton. United wasted several chances to grab all three points, but that has been the tale of their season so far.

Media reports suggest the current group of players are unhappy with Rangnick's tactics, but the German was hired to steady the ship.

But keeping United afloat in the top-four race is a little too defensive, and something needs to change if Rangnick's men are to pinch the final top-four spot.

Imminent fixtures could be United's last hoorah

Rangnick's refusal to change his tactics might come back to bite United, but options are few and far between. If Ronaldo does not start, Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford are Rangnick's only other options through the middle.

They have combined for six league goals in total, while Ronaldo has eight on his own.

Should United finish in the top four, their next three games are likely to be what saves them, with Brighton, Leeds and Watford on the horizon.

In March, they face Man City, Liverpool and then they play Tottenham on two occasions, so it is fair to say that United need to make their move quickly.

The Red Devils look low on confidence and a little lost in the final third, but the games against Leeds and Watford look like the perfect opportunity to restore some faith in Rangnick's plan.

Should they come unstuck, then United's fans might as well focus their attention on next season, with a summer revamp needed at Carrington.

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