‘This club belongs in the Champions League’, says relieved Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag said Manchester United’s Champions League place was “something like” winning a trophy due to the difficulty of the Premier League after qualification was sealed with Thursday’s 4-1 win over Chelsea.
The victory moves the Dutchman’s team into third place, two points ahead of Newcastle, ahead of Sunday’s final league game, Fulham’s visit to Old Trafford.
When the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger stated that a top-four finish was akin to claiming silverware. Ten Hag was told of the Frenchman’s view and asked if he agreed.
Related: Manchester United hammer Chelsea 4-1 to seal Champions League return
“I think in the Premier League, yeah, something like that,” he said. “Due to the Premier League’s toughness. This club belongs in the Champions League. It’s not easy in the Premier League as a lot compete for that. It’s massive when you get it done. We’re still not where we want to be but we’re back in the Champions League and I think that was a really important step.”
One sour point for Ten Hag was an injury concern over Antony, who was carried off in the first half with what appeared to be an ankle problem, and Luke Shaw was replaced at the break.
Of Antony the manager said: “I don’t know. Everyone has seen him come off. I can tell you that it’s serious but we have to wait a minimum of 24 hours and then we know probably more.”
United can claim their second trophy of the season if Manchester City are beaten in the FA Cup final on 3 June – which would also deny their rivals the chance of a treble.
Ten Hag said: “Next week [final] is going to be big and we will do everything in our power. We have to get well prepared and give ourselves the best chance to get the cup. Sunday, let’s focus on that [first], then next week, and then we’ll work in the background for next season.”
Rashford’s strike was a 30th of the season and Ten Hag is confident he will sign a new contract. “We’re working on that. I have a good feeling about that. Marcus wants to stay, we want him to stay,” he said.
Chelsea can finish no higher than 11th. “It’s a bad year for the club,” said the manager, Frank Lampard. “The important thing is you get to the bottom of how it improves. It needs a rebuild, the club will move on in the summer in terms of the squad.”