Man Utd: Erik ten Hag praises players for achieving ‘main goal’ of Champions League qualification
Erik ten Hag, Manchester United manager, said his side achieved their “principal goal” of this season by qualifying for the Champions League after the Red Devils beat Chelsea 4-1 at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
United secured a place in the top four in the penultimate game of the season after Casemiro opened the game with a sixth-minute free-kick.
Goals followed from Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes from the penalty spot and Marcus Rashford, and while Joao Felix equalized for Chelsea with a confident and elegant shot that outsmarted David De Gea, the Blues failed to thwart the home side to make an account.
Ten Hag’s side have had their European chances jeopardized by Liverpool’s late rise in recent weeks, but a 1-1 draw at Anfield with Aston Villa saw United side off by defeating their old opponents.
With the Carabao Cup in hand and an FA Cup final still to be played, Ten Hag claimed that success marked the highlight of their season.
Ten Hag claims Champions League qualification has been United’s “main goal” this season
The former Ajax coach could still be third in the table on the last day of the game
Speak with Sky Sports After the final whistle, Ten Hag said: “This club belongs in the Champions League.” It’s not easy in the Premier League, so many compete for it. It’s huge when you can do it.”
He later shared that his own “high expectations” had been met by his players finishing third on the final day of the season.
“I always have high expectations of myself and I think this club belongs in the Champions League, so you have to qualify in the top four,” reflected Ten Hag.
“But this league is very strong and there are many teams, many clubs competing for the position and they can all do it because they have big budgets and good squads.”
“We see Chelsea, they have a huge, good squad with excellent players.”
“That’s why we’re happy to be in the top four. I think we had a good season in the Premier League. I would say a very good season.”
Ten Hag echoed legendary Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s belief that finishing in the top four was tantamount to winning a trophy, adding: “Oh, I think in the Premier League it’s that kind of thing. “
“I think that’s the main goal of the season, to get into the Champions League.”
“That’s why you have to see yourself in the top four and as I was just trying to answer, the competition is tough.”
“There are many teams with really good squads and good managers. So when you’re there, you do a good job and your team plays well and performs well.”
“I think that’s the maximum at the moment, but we want more.”
The evening was not without dark clouds: After Ten Hag was carried off the pitch on a stretcher in visible pain, the question remains whether Ten Hag will be able to use his winger Antony when the side play Manchester City at Wembley.
The Netherlands manager, who worked with the player at Ajax before luring him to Old Trafford last summer, only confirmed the injury was “severe”.
The loss of a player who was vital for Ten Hag may have drawn the manager’s attention to the upcoming transfer window.
Although the question of who will own United during this period is still uncertain, Ten Hag made it clear he will have no trouble pushing for transfers, which he believes are essential to building this season’s success.
“You have to see how to get out of the transfer window,” added Ten Hag.
Antony suffered a painful injury on Thursday and the club will have to wait and see if he ends his season early
Mason Mount (left) and Declan Rice are two of United’s top transfer targets during this period
“But looking at it now, I think we need more, so I don’t have that much patience.” And that’s one of my mistakes.”
Mail Sport announced yesterday that the club have entered the race for West Ham captain Declan Rice in a bid to bolster their midfield.
United are also seen as prime candidates to sign Chelsea’s Mason Mount, who has yet to agree a long-promised new deal with his club.
Liverpool and Arsenal are also following the talks closely.