Manchester United’s hopes of mixing with Europe’s elite were sunk after they could only scrape a draw against relegated Huddersfield yesterday.

United’s fitness levels have looked increasingly poor as the campaign has reached its final stages with Solskjaer admitting his is a “tired team”.

But he refused to see their participation in the Europa League as a poisoned chalice despite the fact it could hasten the departure of a number of their star performers in the summer.

“It is not what we want but it will mean the kids get chances to play games,” he said. “You can use the Europa League as something positive as Chelsea and Arsenal have one this year and we did a couple of years ago [winning it in 2017].

“I am an optimist by nature and you have to make the most of it.”

United will now have to hope local rivals Manchester City can do them a favour by beating Watford in the FA Cup on May 18. Should Watford win to earn a place in the Europa League group phase, United will have to play in the second qualifying round in July with the first match clashing with a lucrative pre-season commitment against Spurs on tour in Shanghai.

And while conceding Thursday night football in the Europa League was not ideal Solskjaer conceded their performances did not warrant anything higher.

He explained: “We have had so many opportunities to grab third or fourth but we didn’t. We weren’t good enough and we are all disappointed we are not in the Champions League but I think it is a true reflection.

“The table seldom lies in the end.”

United have taken eight points from their last eight games to let a top four spot slip through their fingers a miserable reaction to the full time appointment of Solskjaer.

Yet while the Norwegian has criticised their application on occasions during that run, yesterday he maintained it was not for a lack of effort.

“Effort and attitude was not the problem,” he said. “The players were running and trying. We just weren’t good enough. That is the problem. We could have, should have played better. First half an hour they weren’t close to our box once. Today we had good periods, very bad periods. It has just caught up with us.

“We became sloppy and didn’t perform to our level and gave them chances. The goal we gave them, more or less. We have conceded too many times when we have had a corner kick. That is something we will improve on.”

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