Erik Ten Hag says Man United must clinch Europa League spot as they face Palace

Dutchman's side have already missed out on Champions League next season

Erik ten Hag's Manchester United side take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday night. Getty Images
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Erik ten Hag stressed the importance of Europa League qualification after Manchester United saw their Champions League ambitions ended with four matches to spare.

Last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Burnley helped put a top-four finish beyond them before faint hopes of sneaking into Europe’s top competition through fifth were extinguished on Wednesday.

Borussia Dortmund’s semi-final first leg win against Paris Saint-Germain meant England could no longer secure an extra Champions League spot, while United could still yet miss out on continental football entirely.

That is not something under-fire Ten Hag is even entertaining, with his focus on securing a Europa League place by finishing in the top six or winning the FA Cup final against Manchester City.

“Of course it’s important but we have two opportunities,” Ten Hag said ahead of his injury-hit side’s trip to Crystal Palace on Monday. “There is one in the league and one in the FA Cup final.”

Asked about the difference qualifying for Europa League compared to the Europa Conference League would make, the United boss said: “Definitely, it will have an impact on the budget.

“But I’m sure Manchester United is a very attractive team and club to play for, so many players will be very pleased and very happy to play for Manchester United, I’m sure.”

A summer of change lies ahead at Old Trafford as Ineos try to take United back to the top.

Whether Ten Hag is there to lead the side forward remains to be seen, but he believes a better foundation than some portray is in place heading into the summer transfer window.

“We know we are still below the levels from the expectations that Manchester United has, so we have to catch up,” he said.

“I’m now going into my fifth window. I think two windows were quite OK, two we missed and we have to make new improvements this summer.

“But also there is a base in this squad which is very good and, yeah, definitely the injuries have had a big impact on our season.”

Palace boss Oliver Glasner wants his side to stick to their own game plan when looking to exploit any weaknesses in United.

The Eagles are on a four-match unbeaten run after battling back to draw 1-1 at Fulham last weekend with a late equaliser from Jeffrey Schlupp.

Having built on an unexpected win at Liverpool with successive home victories over West Ham and Newcastle, Palace will be out to ask further questions of Ten Hag’s side.

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Glasner, though, feels the key to getting another positive result will be his players focusing on their own mindset rather than worrying about what United might produce under the lights in south London.

“They have a lot of quality in offence but also, like every team, they have their weaknesses,” Glasner said.

“It is for us to control their strengths but also use their weaknesses – and also what fits to our strengths.

“We don’t want to play in a different way to what we did in the past. We get confidence in what we are doing.

“We have kept the last three teams – Fulham, Newcastle and West Ham – in single figures of shots against us and this is how we want to play, to keep them away, get a lot of pressure on the ball and create chances to score.

“This is the way we want to play, and this is the same way against Man United. Of course, we prepare, but we have to take care of where we get our chances.

“Then with a fantastic support [of our fans], we will play with a lot of energy, play together as a team and give the best to get the three points.”

While questions continue over Ten Hag’s future and the direction of the Old Trafford club, Glasner insists there can be no sense of complacency.

“I expect a lot of quality – players’ quality and coaching quality,” said the Austrian, who took over at Selhurst Park following the departure of Roy Hodgson in February.

“Erik ten Hag did a fantastic job at Ajax. I think last year Man Utd won a cup [League Cup], so they have a great manager, a great team.

“They suffered from many injuries this season, but they still have a lot of quality, offensively.

“Antony, Garnacho, Fernandes, all individual, one-on-one players, and also a very physical striker [Rasmus Hojlund] with finishing qualities.

“Then with Mainoo, one of the rising stars in English football and he also had his debut for the English national team.

“So they are a fantastic team and, of course, a big club. But, with respect, we go for the win.”

Updated: May 05, 2024, 1:55 PM