Manchester United kick off new era with costly loss as Villa extend gap by cutting down Forest

The new era at Manchester United has got off to a disappointing start as the team lost ground in the race for Champions League qualification with a 2-1 home loss against Fulham.

The week had started with new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe completing his purchase of a minority stake in United and boldly setting out a three-year plan to return the club to the top of English soccer, knocking local rivals Manchester City and Liverpool “off their perch” in the process. 

But it ended with Erik ten Hag’s side getting mostly outplayed in their own Old Trafford stadium by opponents in the bottom half of the table and conceding the deciding goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

Look at where Fulham started from before Alex Iwobi scored a 97th minute winner ????

From back to front in seconds. A famous win at the Theatre of Dreams.

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— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) February 24, 2024

Not only did sixth-place United’s four-game winning run in the league come to an end, fourth-placed Aston Villa beat Nottingham Forest 4-2 with an eight-point gap now separating the teams. 

Fifth-place Tottenham are three points ahead of United and have a game in hand.

It remains to be seen if the Premier League will have four or five places in next season’s Champions League. 

But failing to qualify for the lucrative competition would be a huge blow to United’s status and finances — and could yet spell the end for ten Hag as Ratcliffe looks to raise the standards at the ailing giants.

In other results, relegation-threatened Everton conceded an equaliser in the sixth minute of stoppage time to draw 1-1 at Brighton, while newly-hired Crystal Palace manager Oliver Glasner’s tenure got off to strong start as his team beat next-to-last Burnley 3-0.

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