Erik ten Hag has warned Manchester United still have to ‘catch up’ in the top-four race despite a ‘massive win’ over Aston Villa.
Ten Hag’s side secured a 2-1 win at Villa Park after Scott McTominay scored a late winner, a result which sees the Red Devils reduce the gap on the Champions League places to six points.
Villa, who sit fifth, had the chance to open up an 11-point advantage over United in the race for Champions League football but fell to a late defeat as McTominay headed home Diogo Dalot’s right-wing cross.
Rasmus Hojlund had earlier opened the scoring for Manchester United, though the game seemed set to end in a draw after Douglas Luiz’s leveller.
McTominay’s 86th-minute header snatched the points for the visitors late on, earning United a fourth consecutive win in all competitions. Ten Hag called the result a ‘massive win’ but has warned his team have plenty to do to secure a place in Europe’s elite next season.
“It is a massive win for us. We’ve got closer and that was the aim for today,” the Dutchman said to Sky Sports.
“That was absolutely our target and we’ve done it. The way we did it, I liked it. I especially liked the first 20 minutes when we controlled the game. At 1-1 we had to fight back and we are really happy for today.
“At 1-1 you always have to see how the game progresses and I think it was really high intensity and you could see how many players were fatigued by the end. It was so open and it could go two ways but we found the mentality and character to win the game. The subs also had an impact.
“Scott [McTominay] is great. He can score many goals. He’s always coming into positions to score goals. We had problems, it was too much like a tennis match, we had problems in the counter-attack. We knew Scott would get into the box and can score goals.
“The players were going for goals because they are offensive but it was better in certain situations to keep the ball, drag players out and that was the idea to bring an extra midfielder into there.
“Our set pieces were very good. Our defensive organisation in the first part was very good and we had moments on the ball we were calm but once we scored we changed our mindset but for me you must play on. You can do this at the end but not when you are dictating the first 20 minutes, you must keep going on.
“I never think about negative situations. I’m thinking positive, we have to catch up but we are not there yet. We are in a good mood and we have to keep this process going but there is so much space for improvement. There are many games left to play and we’ll see what happens.”