Man Utd have a plan to clinch Europa League group win – Ten Hag

By Sports Desk November 02, 2022

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag says his side "have a plan" to secure the margin of victory they need against Real Sociedad to top their Europa League group.

While a spot in the knockout stages of the competition has already been secured, United need to win by a two-goal margin to finish as Group E winners – which comes with the added benefit of avoiding a two-legged play-off against one of the eight teams to drop out of the Champions League.

Instead, group winners will resume their involvement in the Europa League from the round of 16, which would prove a valuable boost not only due to ensuring United would be a step closer to the final, but also in light of the hectic fixture schedule caused by the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.

Securing such a win is the clear target for Ten Hag and his side, who lost the reverse fixture in the opening match of the group stage.

"Obviously, it's important. We can win tomorrow night. We know what we have to do - win by a two-goal margin," he said in Wednesday's press conference.

"But if you want to win the trophy you have to win all the games, so we have to win every one.

"It's six weeks ago or so and it's a different team, not all the players then are fit. We're growing, developing, making good progress.

"We know it's difficult to win games here but we like the challenge. We know we have to win by two goals, we have a plan for that and we will do everything to get it done.

"I don't think you speak about how far you come. You can't win anything at this moment, it's game by game and we have to win every game."

While United have lost their last two matches against Spanish opponents, against Atletico Madrid in last season's Champions League and La Real earlier this campaign, they have won six of their last seven away games in the Europa League, scoring 19 goals at an average of 2.7 per game.

La Real, on the other hand, have won their last two Europa League home matches, as many wins as in their previous 10 such games in the competition (D4 L4). They last won three consecutive home fixtures in a single season in major European competitions in the 1998-99 UEFA Cup.

United will be depleted for Thursday's game, with Antony, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial all unavailable, though the trio could well be back soon.

"Jadon was ill, Martial is still in rehab. He did train this morning so we're going in the right direction," Ten Hag added.

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    Manchester United boss Ten Hag hit out at criticism implying his captain feigned injury after Wednesday’s FA Cup victory over Nottingham Forest.

    Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester City, Ten Hag was asked about a TikTok post from Fulham showing Fernandes going down during last Saturday’s Premier League contest and accompanied by the caption: “So glad he’s ok…”

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    Ten Hag expects Fernandes and Raphael Varane, who was also a doubt for Wednesday, to be fit for the derby, but the likes of Harry Maguire and Rasmus Hojlund are likely to stay on United’s lengthy injury list.

    United go into the clash 15 points behind their neighbours and are currently eight adrift of a Champions League qualifying spot.

    City have not lost since early December, winning 16 of their last 18 games, while Ten Hag has been beaten in three of his four games against Pep Guardiola’s men.

    Last season’s trip to the Etihad ended in a 6-3 defeat for United, but Ten Hag believes his team can take confidence from their form, saying: “We are also in a good run and the spirit is very good, we are united, we have the togetherness to make a good game plan.

    “We have done it before against City, lately also against Liverpool. The players are ready for it, the players are looking forward to it, I can smell it when I am around here, when I speak with the players. We’re excited.

    “They have a good team but there are more good teams. They have won in the last season everything so we know that that’s the challenge, but also Liverpool have a very good team and there are more. We like such challenges.”

    New investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe stated his aim last week for United to knock City and Liverpool off their perch within three years.

    “You always want to play against the best so most of the times we feel and you can also see it that the opposition get their best outputs against Manchester United, and maybe this game is the other way around,” said Ten Hag.

    “We know we have to give everything and show really a team performance if you want to get a result. If you do it, it is possible.

    “From all the games we look back, we had the opportunity to win and we won one time but you need a great day. That is also what we know so the players have to give the best performances.”

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    "He was really good. I guess 25 means he's still going to be really good as he gets older here."

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