Erik ten Hag focuses on the positives after Man United's win over Newcastle

A 3-2 victory at Old Trafford keeps alive eighth-placed United's hopes of qualifying for European football

Rasmus Hojlund scored the third goal in Manchester United's 3-2 win over Newcastle. EPA
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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag said he is focusing on the positives after Wednesday's win over Newcastle kept alive their hopes of European football for next season.

United's potential was on display in an entertaining 3-2 Premier League victory against Newcastle as three of the team's least experienced and youngest players all scored – Kobbie Mainoo (19), Amad Diallo (21) and Rasmus Hojlund (21).

"I see the positives, I see that this team is developing, I know the reasons why we are not performing," Ten Hag said. "No team will perform when the whole [injury-depleted] back four is not available, across the season.

"Even striker Rasmus Hojlund, three times injured, [Marcus] Rashford also injured, so we have had our problems across the season and that has a negative impact on the results.

"[But] you see players performing and you see players progressing like the youngsters and that is very positive, there is a high potential in this club. So, there are also many positives in this season, but I can't mention this.

"You know why – at the end of the day, we have to win trophies. And in the Premier League, and in the Champions League, we didn't perform what people expect from us."

United remained eighth in the table with Wednesday's win but level on 57 points with seventh-placed Newcastle in the fight for a European berth next season.

The victory at Old Trafford in their home finale felt like a small reward for fans who have endured one of the worst home campaigns in the club's history, and Ten Hag addressed the supporters he called the "best in the world" after the final whistle.

"We wanted to thank them for sticking with us, we are in difficult times," he told Sky Sports. "We are in a transition at this club and the results are not what we expect. We also have our reasons, but it's still a disappointing season.

"I am very pleased [with Wednesday's win]. In the past months, we had many games where we were in winning positions but we couldn't get over the line."

If Ten Hag's men win the FA Cup final against holders Manchester City, they will play in the Europa League next season. However, if City win, United will need to finish seventh to secure a place in the Europa Conference League.

United, who have never finished lower than seventh in the Premier League, play at Brighton on Sunday and need to better Newcastle's result at Brentford on the same day to move up to seventh place.

Meanwhile, Newcastle's late-season charge has been checked in recent weeks. Five wins in seven matches set the Magpies on course for Europe but a draw to Brighton and now this defeat to United leaves them in danger of missing out altogether just one season after returning to the Champions League.

"We had chances to do more, but the way we defended the three goals wasn't good enough – this season compared to last we have conceded goals," Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said. "It's something we have to change longer term."

On his team's European chances heading into the final day, Howe added: "I don't know. In this moment we are disappointed to not win today. It was an opportunity to grab Europe instead of looking around at other results."

Updated: May 16, 2024, 7:00 AM