Erik ten Hag says securing Champions League qualification is an ‘important step’ for Manchester United after his side confirmed their place in next season’s competition.
United’s 4-1 win over Chelsea secured a top four finish in the Premier League and a place among Europe’s elite next season, with the Red Devils returning to the Champions League after an absence this season.
“It’s really important [to finish in the top four],” Ten Hag told MUTV. “This club belongs in the Champions League and it’s not so easy in the Premier League. It’s a tough competition, strong, with a lot of teams competing for that. And we made it, so we make a good season.”
United’s top four finish continues an encouraging debut season under Ten Hag, with the club having ended a six-year wait for silverware with League Cup success in February.
Ten Hag’s team will also meet Manchester City in the FA Cup final on June 3 and the Dutchman believes his side are heading ‘in the right direction’.
“I am comfortable here. But I remember after the second game, Brentford, it was tough. But, yeah, I think we construct a team, it’s a good spirit. We work very good in the training pitch and we get results. We are improving and I think we are in the right direction and we know we are still not there where we want to be, but we are back in the Champions League. That was, I think, a really important step. We had to do it because if you want to be successful, you have to be in the Champions League.”
United earned a comfortable victory over Chelsea on Thursday evening, as goals from Casemiro, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford sealed a 4-1 win.
Ten Hag was pleased with the attacking performance of his team but believes the Red Devils should have defended better and ‘scored more goals’ in what was an ‘open game’ at Old Trafford.
“It was an open game. I think they are already preparing for next season so they were quite relaxed with an open mind. It’s always difficult to play against and they created chances but also gave away a lot of spaces on the break. To be fair, we should have scored more goals.
“It’s not my game, it’s too open. We have to defend better and not allow them so many chances. And also, in the breaks, we should have scored more. We could be much better but, of course, in the end, we don’t complain about that. We are in the top four and that is the most important [thing] tonight, it’s a big compliment for everyone here in this club.”
“Defensive organisation was better [in the] second half. [We were] more compact [and made] better decisions. First half we had problems. They came in between the lines. But be fair, they play without pressure and they could go forward and you could see that.
“It’s always difficult playing against a team like this. Of course they want to win, but they were also open. But then you have to strike them and you have to take advantage from the spaces you get. And we didn’t always. [The] second goal was late in the first half, [it] could have been earlier.”
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