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Man United finishes 8th for worst-ever Premier League season despite winning last game at Brighton

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Man United finishes 8th for worst-ever Premier League season despite winning last game at Brighton
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Man United finishes 8th for worst-ever Premier League season despite winning last game at Brighton

2024-05-20 03:16 Last Updated At:03:20

BRIGHTON, England (AP) — Manchester United slumped to its worst-ever Premier League finish in eighth place and closed the campaign with a negative goal difference despite beating Brighton 2-0 away in their final game on Sunday.

Diogo Dalot and Rasmus Hojlund were the scorers for United at Amex Stadium as United finished outside the European qualification spots.

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag looks on, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

BRIGHTON, England (AP) — Manchester United slumped to its worst-ever Premier League finish in eighth place and closed the campaign with a negative goal difference despite beating Brighton 2-0 away in their final game on Sunday.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag applauds fans, at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag applauds fans, at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

FILE - Brighton's head coach Roberto De Zerbi shouts to his players from the sideline during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Brighton and Hove at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on March 31, 2024. De Zerbi will leave the club after the team’s game against Manchester United. De Zerbi has been discussed as a potential coaching candidate for higher-profile clubs and his “mutually agreed” split from Brighton after Sunday’s match will only fuel further speculation. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

FILE - Brighton's head coach Roberto De Zerbi shouts to his players from the sideline during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Brighton and Hove at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on March 31, 2024. De Zerbi will leave the club after the team’s game against Manchester United. De Zerbi has been discussed as a potential coaching candidate for higher-profile clubs and his “mutually agreed” split from Brighton after Sunday’s match will only fuel further speculation. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana, centre, makes a save, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana, centre, makes a save, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Brighton's Joao Pedro, left and Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka vie for the ball, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Brighton's Joao Pedro, left and Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka vie for the ball, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag smiles, ahead of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag smiles, ahead of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Finishing in sixth or seventh place would have confirmed a place in the Europa League or Europa Conference League, respectively, for United, the 20-time English champion. However, the two teams above United — Chelsea and Newcastle — both won elsewhere in the final round.

United could still get into the Europa League by beating Manchester City in the FA Cup on Saturday.

It was United's worst league campaign since coming 13th in the old First Division under Alex Ferguson in 1990.

“We have the best fans in the world and I mean this,” said United manager Erik ten Hag, whose team has endured an injury-hit season. “I have never had this experience when you have a season like us, which is by far not good enough, that the supporters are with us.

“They are with us in the bad season and in bad times they are there. I think also they know why the bad times are there. But we have to pay them back and we have to do everything to give them a trophy next week — but also for the future, we have to perform better.”

It was Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi's final match in charge of his team. He announced Saturday he'd be stepping down after Sunday's game.

While cross-town rival City was busy being crowned league champion for an unprecedented fourth season in a row, United overcame a poor first-half display to avoid setting a new record for the club’s lowest Premier League points tally.

Yet Ten Hag’s men still finished a difficult campaign, which brought 14 top-flight defeats, with a goal difference of -1.

Hojlund, the Denmark international, has hit 16 goals in his debut season, including 10 in the league, following his big-money move from Atalanta. Ten Hag said he hopes that tally increases at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

“It could always be better but don’t forget he had three injuries this season,” Ten Hag said of the 21-year-old Hojlund's contribution.

“He came in with the injury, missed the start, then he got injured before winter and then he got injured after winter. So every time that broke his rhythm and if you then shoot 16 goals for the first season it’s OK. And it’s not over, we have to play the FA Cup final.”

Following a series of fitness setbacks among this squad, Ten Hag believes he now has a positive selection headache as he contemplates his cup final lineup.

Center back Lisandro Martinez made his first start since early February on the south coast, while Raphael Varane returned to action as a substitute following more than six weeks out.

“I would say the manager and the coaching team have luxury problems, which is good,” Ten Hag said.

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag looks on, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag looks on, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag applauds fans, at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag applauds fans, at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

FILE - Brighton's head coach Roberto De Zerbi shouts to his players from the sideline during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Brighton and Hove at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on March 31, 2024. De Zerbi will leave the club after the team’s game against Manchester United. De Zerbi has been discussed as a potential coaching candidate for higher-profile clubs and his “mutually agreed” split from Brighton after Sunday’s match will only fuel further speculation. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

FILE - Brighton's head coach Roberto De Zerbi shouts to his players from the sideline during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Brighton and Hove at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on March 31, 2024. De Zerbi will leave the club after the team’s game against Manchester United. De Zerbi has been discussed as a potential coaching candidate for higher-profile clubs and his “mutually agreed” split from Brighton after Sunday’s match will only fuel further speculation. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana, centre, makes a save, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana, centre, makes a save, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Brighton's Joao Pedro, left and Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka vie for the ball, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Brighton's Joao Pedro, left and Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka vie for the ball, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag smiles, ahead of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag smiles, ahead of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, at the Amex Stadium, in Brighton and Hove, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

DALLAS (AP) — Nick Saban is at SEC Media Days again, six months after retiring as Alabama coach.

This time he's asking the questions as part of ESPN's SEC Network coverage of the four-day event.

“I’m still a coach at heart. So I want to ask the coaches questions so that they can actually talk about things that they want to talk about, and maybe things that they want to be able to get out there,” Saban said Wednesday, a short time before his successor, Kalen DeBoer, made his SEC Media days debut as Tide coach.

“So I’m not trying to put anybody on the defensive,” Saban added. “I’m trying to help them express what they’d like to express about their team, or about a particular player, or about a position on their team.”

Saban, 72, retired in January after 17 seasons with Alabama and three decades as a head coach. The seven-time national champion will work for ESPN this season on its “College GameDay” Saturday pregame show.

He said he doesn't plan to be critical as a broadcaster.

“I want to be objective. But I don’t want to be controversial,” Saban said. “You could take any decision in any situation that anybody makes and make it controversial. Like, if we go for it on fourth-and-3, we would have 100,000 people in Alabama say, ‘I’m glad he’s going for it.’ And we would have 100,000 people say, ‘He’s a dumbass for going for it.’”

Saban has already made a headline, picking Georgia and Texas, not the Crimson Tide, to play for the SEC championship.

His former players noticed.

"He always said don’t let some guy who lives in his mom’s basement determine how you feel. I’m not going to let a guy who plays golf all day determine how I feel,” offensive tackle Tyler Booker said with a smile.

Saban said he has poured himself into the new job much as if he was still a coach. He prepared “a couple hundred hours” for his role on ESPN's NFL draft coverage. For SEC Media Days, he said he watched every team's spring game and called every coach in the conference.

“The biggest thing I miss is the relationships with the people, the players, the coaches, the staff and all the people that you work with, being a part of a team," Saban said. “That I miss. But, I also got to the point where it was difficult for me to sustain things the way I needed to sustain them, to be satisfied with myself that I was doing a good job. So the last year was hard. So, I said, maybe it’s time for somebody else. I don’t regret that.”

Saban was asked if major college football could ever install a commissioner, would be he interested in the job. He said that's a question for his wife, Terry.

“I try to go play golf at 7:30 in the morning. So I get home at 11:30,” he said. “I can’t get to the ninth hole without getting a text of ‘This is what I want you to do when you come home.’

“At least let me finish my round. It's not going to get done any faster.”

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

Former Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, left, and current Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer greet each other after appearing on the set of ESPN's SEC Now during the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Former Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, left, and current Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer greet each other after appearing on the set of ESPN's SEC Now during the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

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