Rio Ferdinand says Manchester United's season will be seen as a failure if they do not qualify for the Champions League – and winning the FA Cup will make no difference.
The Red Devils could lift their first piece of major silverware in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era when they take on Crystal Palace at Wembley on May 15.
Their FA Cup run has been something to cling onto in an otherwise drab campaign that has seen them score fewer goals than in any other Premier League season.
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More worrying than their poor performance in front of goal is their position in the table. They currently sit fifth and spurned an opportunity to leap into fourth place when they threw away a 2-1 lead against West Ham on Tuesday.
The defeat leaves them two points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who need just a point from their final game against Swansea to secure a place in next season's Champions League. For Manchester United, who play Bournemouth at home, it would mean missing out on the elite competition for the second time in three seasons.
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And such are the financial implications of missing out on the Champions League, Ferdinand has suggested that finishing in the top four is more important, at least in commercial terms, than winning the FA Cup.
In fact, the former Red Devils defender says there is no way they can call this season a success if they do not leapfrog their city rivals on the final day of the season.
“If they don't qualify for the Champions League, it's not a successful season. That's quite fair to say,” Ferdinand said at the Telegraph Business of Sport conference.
“If they get their hands on the FA Cup, that's a great achievement, but in my time if you'd won a trophy, you'd done well - but you've got to get into the Champions League as well, and I think that's the case even more so today.
“[Reaching] the Champions League maybe outweighs winning sometimes, even the FA Cup in terms of the commercial options of a football club. Finishing in the Champions League places is the only place Manchester United should be finishing.
"That's got to be the minimum demand at that football club. That's what it was when I was there.”
Sacking Van Gaal
And when Ferdinand spoke of the "minimum demand" he invited questions over the future of Louis van Gaal. Reports have suggested the Dutchman will be sacked if he fails to reach the target of top four, but Ferdinand says more questions need to be asked by Ed Woodward before a final decision is made.
“I'm not the man to answer that question", he said. “I'm not the CEO.
"I think Ed Woodward and his team of people around him will be the people that ultimately decide that. What was his remit when we went there? When that is established you can say whether it's a good or bad season.”
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