Ten Hag adamant Manchester United must be in Champions League
Manchester United's head coach Erik ten Hag applauds fans at the end of the Europa League playoff second leg soccer match between Manchester United and Barcelona at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Thursday, February 23, 2023. Manchester United won 2-1. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP)— Erik ten Hag has insisted Manchester United must be playing Champions League football next season, saying there can be "no misunderstanding" about their need to return to Europe's premier club football competition.

The former Ajax manager has overseen an impressive return to form after taking charge at Old Trafford last season with the English giants in the doldrums.

Under the Dutch boss, United ended a six-year trophy drought with victory over Newcastle, their Premier League opponents on Sunday, in last month's League Cup final.

And they head to St James' Park on Sunday in third place in the Premier League, three points clear of their rivals for a top-four spot.

"One thing let's make clear, we have to play Champions League football," Ten Hag said.

"A club like Manchester United has to act in the Champions League, so there's no misunderstanding."

Asked if being in the Champions League makes three-time European champions United more attractive to potential signings, he said: "Of course we are more interesting when we are in the Champions League...We have two paths. One is the Premier League, being in the top four, or win the Europa League, so they are the two paths."

Ten Hag, however, stressed United had an enduring appeal to players around the world.

"I think a very good example is Casemiro," said the United manager.

"He won everything, including the Champions League, but he was willing to come to Manchester United.

"Even when we were playing in the Europa League because this club attracts people, it's very interesting for them and they want to be part of this club."

Brazil midfielder Casemiro was the most notable signing of a pre-season that also saw Antony, Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia arrive at Old Trafford.

"From my analysis, I think we are in a good direction, in the right direction," Ten Hag said. "I think we're building a base this season but from hereon of course we have to develop and we have to progress.

"You can do that by developing the team and that is in every game you have to play a better game, so every training (session) you can develop your way of playing and that's what we are doing.

"We are also setting every time higher demands and standards to our players, and then for the rest in the summer we will see."

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