Ralf Rangnick makes Manchester United transfer admission

Ralf Rangnick admits Manchester United’s targeting of players in the summer transfer window would be easier if they qualified for the Champions League.

United have been outside the Premier League top four since October 16 but could move up to fourth for at least 24 hours if they beat West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Rangnick’s side are due to take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League round-of-16 next month but both the league and knockout routes into the Champions League are intensely competitive.

United are currently finalising their shortlist of top targets for the summer with a view to executing deals from next month but their European competition status for next season is unclear.

“Yes, of course, it would be helpful if we knew we were going to play Champions League football next season,” Rangnick said. “Not only for potential new players but also the players that we have here already.

“Everybody would like to play Champions League but, as I said, there are only two pathways to play Champions League next season, either you finish in the top four in the Premier League – and this will not easily happen this season because there is a lot of competition – and the other way is to win the Champions League yourself.

“We all know both are not easier but it’s more realistic and more possible to plan and develop to finish in the top four in the Premier League than from now on just saying we plan to try to win the Champions League. This is exactly what I told the players before the kick-off at Brentford.”

United players will have a week off after the West Ham match and resume training on January 29 ahead of the FA Cup fourth round visit of Middlesbrough on February 4.

The upcoming 13-day gap is not a winter break as confederations outside of Europe hold World Cup qualifiers and the Africa Cup of Nations concludes and United are not going to embark on a warm-weather training trip as they did in 2020 when they spent almost a week in Malaga.

Alex Telles and Fred are on international duty with Brazil, Edinson Cavani has been called up by Uruguay and Eric Bailly is with the Ivory Coast at AFCON. Rangnick also suggested some players would not have been able to travel in what appeared to be a reference to those unvaccinated against Covid-19.

“The players will have a couple of days off,” Rangnick explained. “We will then resume for training on Saturday and have a normal full week of training ahead of the game against Middlesbrough.

“I think this is more important than training all through for the two weeks and going to a training camp with all the Covid restrictions that you’re facing, no matter if you travel to a country or when you get back to England. It wouldn’t have made sense.

“There may have even been a couple of players who wouldn’t be able to fly, so it doesn’t make sense to travel with two-thirds of the squad. We have four players who are away on international duty in the break so to travel with only half or two-thirds of the squad doesn’t make sense.”