Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag “can’t be bothered” with criticism of the job he is doing at Old Trafford and claims he has only been able to pick his strongest team once in 18 months.

The Dutchman delivered an encouraging first season, winning the League Cup and finishing in the top four, but this campaign has been far more difficult.

They were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage and are in a battle to finish in the top six in the Premier League, with his position coming under scrutiny following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s minority purchase and takeover of the football operations.

United can salvage their season by winning the FA Cup and they aim to reach a second successive final when they host Championship Coventry on Sunday.

Ten Hag insists he shuts out the noise when it comes to speculation on his future.

“I don’t put energy into this, if I’m judged fairly or not,” he said. “I know what we are doing here, why I’m here, to bring trophies, to also create economic value, so we are working on those and in a process you have setbacks.

“I look at this and can see it realistically, so I see the nuance, some comments miss that, but I can’t be bothered about it, can’t go into emotions.

“I see it realistic, rationale, and I’m only focussing on my team, to improve the team and individuals. That’s what I’m here for.”

United have had injury problems to deal with and the Dutchman says the home win over Manchester City last year was the only time he had a full squad to choose from.

“I don’t have any concern about what is said on the outside,” he said. “What concerns me is that in 18 months I have never had my favourite team on the pitch in 18 months.

“That concerns me. Because the players are injured. One time (I could pick my strongest XI) was against City last season in the home game.

“That was the only time where we had a full squad, where I can pick my team and in all the other games there was always an injury aspect where we have to deal with.

“That is normal in football but not so many as we have had. And I know when we have so many injuries as we have had and on crucial key positions, you can’t deliver the results you want to bring and that is OK.

“But that is my truth. And others can have a different truth. But I can’t put energy in that.”

The man in the opposite dugout should provide a timely reminder to Ten Hag that fortunes in football can change in an instant.

Sky Blues boss Mark Robins is widely acknowledged to be the man who saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s job in 1990 when his third-round goal against Nottingham Forest ended a run of 11 games without a win.

United went on to win the FA Cup that year and the rest is history.

“Yes, I know (the story). In football, it’s sometimes like this, that a shot on the post or in the net makes a huge difference,” Ten Hag said.

“See 1966, eh? Only one time but it made them (England) world champions.”

Jason Wilcox has left Southampton to become Manchester United’s new technical director with immediate effect.

The 53-year-old becomes a key appointment at Old Trafford as part of United’s off-field overhaul following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s arrival at the club.

Wilcox joined Championship side Southampton last summer as their director of football, making the switch from Manchester City where he developed a reputation for nurturing excellent young talent as well as recruiting some of the best prospects in the game.

A United statement read: “Jason Wilcox has joined Manchester United as technical director with immediate effect.

“He will work with all technical areas of the football department to achieve the highest standards of performance.

“Jason was previously director of football at Southampton and before that academy director at Manchester City.

“As a player he won the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers in 1995.”

A Saints statement read: “Southampton Football Club can today confirm that it has reluctantly agreed to allow director of football Jason Wilcox to join Manchester United, having reached an agreement with the Premier League side on an acceptable compensation fee.

“Whilst the club is naturally disappointed that Jason’s stay at Southampton has only lasted nine months, it wishes him well for the future.”

John Murtough stepped down as football director at Old Trafford last week.

United are looking to add Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth to their staff as Ratcliffe continues his off-field rebuild after taking a 27.7 per cent stake in the club.

Wilcox will report to the sporting director, who will have overall responsibility for football performance, recruitment and operations.

The PA news agency understands Darren Fletcher will continue to play a key role in the football leadership team working across the men’s first team and academy.

TCS London Marathon organisers plan to pay tribute to the late Kelvin Kiptum on Sunday with 30 seconds of applause ahead of the elite male race.

Kiptum won last year’s event and months later became the first man to run the marathon under two hours and one minute in Chicago.

The death of the Kenyan long-distance runner in a car accident in February at the age of 24 sent shockwaves through the sport and he will be remembered before Sunday’s London Marathon, which he won on three occasions and with a record time of two hours, one minute and 25 seconds in 2023.

“We will be having a tribute to him on the start line for what he did in the incredible short time he was in our sport,” London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher said of Kiptum.

“Three wins out of three events, he was our course record holder and he then became the world record holder in Chicago.

“It will be 30 seconds of applause. We want to celebrate the man. There will be a VT (video tape) played and we will be doing this in conjunction with the BBC in terms of what they’ll be doing.

“There will be some words that Geoff Whiteman will speak just to remind people and celebrate his short but impactful life.”

A number of high-profile figures will feature in the 26.2-mile run and this includes Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who will then make a quick dash to Wembley to watch his team take on Coventry for a place in the FA Cup final.

But Brasher insisted: “I think Jim probably doesn’t need a huge amount of advice from me on running the London Marathon.


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“He has done seven London Marathons and that is three more than me!

“What he is doing for sport overall is incredibly positive but he definitely doesn’t need my advice on timing or how well to run.”

Brasher was quizzed on what type of security would be provided for Ratcliffe and other runners in the public eye.

While he could not divulge any specific details, the London Marathon race director talked more openly about the threat of demonstrations, especially with reference to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East which has affected thousands of Palestinians and Israeli people.

“There are people running for Palestinians that have been affected. There are people running for Israelis that have been affected. There are so many people running for so many different causes and what we’ve always tried to do is bring people together,” Brasher added.

“We’ve always talked about the fact with Extinction Rebellion last year that they should be allowed to demonstrate, but that we should be allowed to co-exist.

“Co-existence and togetherness is what the London Marathon is all about. We hope that message is the message that will resonate with anyone who does think this should be a good thing to disrupt, because it isn’t.

“Again, I can’t really talk about the mitigations but there are numerous ones we have.”

Erik ten Hag has said Manchester United signing a proven goalscorer this summer “would help” – while stressing the striking options with which they entered the current season “should have been enough”.

Having last term finished third in the Premier League and won the Carabao Cup in their first campaign under Ten Hag’s management, United have subsequently underwhelmed.

With seven games to go in the league, they lie sixth, 11 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, as well as fifth-placed Aston Villa, and have the lowest goals-for tally in the top 10 with 45.

Twenty-one-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund has netted 13 times in all competitions since being signed last summer to join an attack also featuring Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

Rashford has eight United goals to his name for 2023-24, and Martial – sidelined since groin surgery in January, with Ten Hag unsure if he will be available again before the end of the season – two.

Asked at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s league trip to Bournemouth how vital it was that United sign a proven hitman this summer, Ten Hag said: “I think it would help.

“In this plan we constructed we should have had enough goals. You count on goals from Rashy – last season he scored 30. You count on goals from Martial – in my first season he played very well and also in very important games he had a high impact on our performances.

“And then bringing a goalscorer like Rasmus Hojlund in, it should have been enough goals.”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe became minority owner at United in February, taking control of football operations.

A change was confirmed this week as the club on Tuesday announced John Murtough was stepping down as football director, and United are looking to bring in Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth and Southampton director of football Jason Wilcox.

Ten Hag said with regard to the summer: “We are working in the background on plans with scouting. We are working on our plan, the plan is ready, but it has to execute, and I trust the new ownership that they will work as quick as possible and bring new good structures and that they can execute.

“We have good plans, I think also with quality players. You see now about recruitment: (Andre) Onana is doing very well, Rasmus Hojlund, everyone is seeing his big talent and potential. (Lisandro) Martinez, everyone was hugely happy with him, and there are others.

“So the recruitment is good. But if they (new directors) have even better ideas, we are always open. If you have options but they come with better options we are open.

“But we have a way we want to play, so we know our profiles, so it has to match the profiles we want.”

As well as the changes to the club hierarchy, the season has seen United – currently assessing Rashford, as well as midfielder Scott McTominay ahead of the Bournemouth game – hit by considerable injury problems, while there have also been other issues involving players such as that which led to Jadon Sancho leaving for Borussia Dortmund on loan in January.

Asked about the challenges, Ten Hag said: “The thing is, you have to be realistic – as a manager, it’s like a minister, you don’t have anything in your hands but at the end of the day, and that is what you have to accept, you are responsible for everything. And I take that.

“Some things… it just happens, and then you have to make the best out of it.”

He added: “This business, this industry, is about results and many see only the results, but you have to see also what’s underneath. I see underneath and I see the potential. I see the direction. So I’m positive in the way we want to go, and we will be successful.”

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag says he will miss the support of departed football director John Murtough and has emphasised the importance of replacing him.

United on Tuesday announced Murtough was stepping down from the post, having spent almost 11 years at the club in a variety of roles.

The Red Devils, with Ineos now in control of football operations after Sir Jim Ratcliffe became minority owner in February, are looking to bring in Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth and Southampton director of football Jason Wilcox.

Asked about Murtough leaving at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth, Ten Hag said: “You mention the new season – it’s very important, the new ownership is working on this and we have to replace this function to go into the new season.

“For the moment, of course I miss his support, but he moved on, there has been choices made. We work very good together, so I say thank you to John and I wish him all the best for the future.

“Also I work with the new ownership very good and closely together and that will not change. It doesn’t have an impact on the way I can work here.

“Conditions were perfect and are still perfect, so I’m happy with that, but we want to set the right conditions to be successful.”

Manchester United have made an official approach to hire Southampton director of football Jason Wilcox as part of their off-field overhaul following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s arrival.

Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the former England winger and the current state of affairs.

What is Wilcox’s background?

He joined Blackburn in 1987 at the age of 16 following a trial, broke into the first team two years later and remained at Ewood Park for the next decade, making 238 appearances. He was a key player in Rovers’ 1995 Premier League title-winning side. Wilcox left for Leeds in 1999 and helped the Yorkshire club reach UEFA Cup and Champions League semi-finals in consecutive seasons before a spell with Leicester and then finishing his career at Blackpool aged 35.

What has he been up to in recent years?

Wilcox took up an academy coaching role with Manchester City in 2012, guiding the under-18s to the national title as well as two FA Youth Cup finals, and was appointed academy director in October 2017. It was announced in January 2023 that he would move to Saints in the summer to oversee all football departments.

Why is he in demand?

Wilcox developed a reputation for nurturing young talent in the blue half of Manchester, as well as recruiting some of the best prospects in the game. He is understood to have a good relationship with incoming United chief executive Omar Berrada from their time together at City and has been targeted to be the next piece of United’s off-field jigsaw puzzle. Ineos recently took charge of football operations at Old Trafford as part of the deal that saw Ratcliffe become minority owner, and United are looking for a resolution to hire Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth, who has been placed on garden leave.

What will it take to get the deal done?

The Red Devils have offered compensation commensurate to a year’s salary, but Southampton want a bigger package. United want Wilcox in place for the summer and are hoping for an amicable outcome. A report emerged during Southampton’s match against Ipswich on Monday evening that Wilcox had resigned, which would mean him serving a 12-month notice period before he could take up a new role.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has warned against the prospect of Manchester United trying to land superstar signings like Jude Bellingham or Kylian Mbappe.

The Ineos chairman is taking control of footballing operations at United following his recent minority purchase and wants to turn them back into the force they once were.

However, he believes spending big on marquee signings is not the way to prosper.

Appearing as a guest on Geraint Thomas’ Cycling Club podcast, the 71-year-old was asked whether he would try and sign England star Bellingham.

He replied: “He is a great footballer. It’s not where our focus is, the solution isn’t spending a lot of money on a couple of great players.

“They have done that, if you look at the last 10 years, they have spent a lot of money on a couple of great players.

“The first thing we need to do is get the right people in the right boxes who are managing and organising the club.

“And make sure we get recruitment right, it is such a vital part of football today.”

Later in the podcast he was given a choice of signing Mbappe for United or cyclist Tadej Pogacar for his Ineos team and he said: “I would rather sign the next Mbappe rather than spend a fortune buying success.

“It’s not that clever buying Mbappe. Anyone could figure that one out. More challenging is to find the next Mbappe or next Bellingham or next Roy Keane.”

Radcliffe is working with his long-term right-hand man Dave Brailsford at United, with Omar Berrada incoming as chief executive.

And he said it would be a “longer road” to make United great again.

“The two people who are most focused on it would be Dave and myself, in terms of how we resolve it all,” he added.

“We’ve now got Omar Berrada of course, our new CEO from Manchester City, who is still on gardening leave at the moment, he’ll be a big part of it.

“But it’s Dave and myself really.

“You have to believe with Manchester Utd, if we get all the details right, all the right people in the right boxes, doing the right things in the right environment, that sporting elite environment that the results will drop out the bottom.

“Those things are not right at Manchester United today as we’ve said very clearly.

“It’s not a light switch, it’s a much longer road to travel because there’s so many aspects to it.”

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, believes the development of a world-class stadium for Manchester United could spark the “biggest regeneration project in the north of England that we’ll ever see”.

The Premier League giants announced on Friday that a task force has been formed aimed at exploring options to regenerate the Old Trafford area of the city with a top-class ground at the heart of it.

United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe favours a new stadium on adjacent club-owned land rather than redeveloping the current ground and called this is a “once-in-a-century opportunity”.

Lord Coe, the London 2012 chief, was named chair of the ‘Old Trafford Regeneration Task Force’, which also includes former United captain Gary Neville and the city’s mayor.

“From our point of view there’s nothing bigger in world football than the name Manchester United,” Burnham said.

“And if we unlock the full power of this club in terms of its power to regenerate then that’s fantastic for Greater Manchester in terms of jobs, new investment into the city-region.

“If you look at this area investment has gone into Media City, but actually if you look around at the wider area there’s not been a huge amount in recent decades.

“This could be the biggest regeneration project in the north of England that we’ll ever see. It could be that big.

“It depends on the club, though. The club’s got a decision to make about is it refurbished, is it new build.

“Whatever the club decides, we’ll support them in that and in either scenario it’s massive for Greater Manchester.

“But obviously we’re standing behind the club, to make sure that the maximum benefit is achieved for the economy of Greater Manchester.”

Asked if it could be on the scale of what London 2012 did for East London, Burnham said: “It absolutely could be on that scale and it could be more because of this club and the desire of people around the world to be associated in some way with this club.”

Burnham was Old Trafford on Saturday to see his Everton side defeated 2-0 by United and, most importantly, speak up the benefits of this project.

“What I have got to do as part of the task force in the next five, six months working with Lord Coe, Gary and others is give all the supporting information to enable the club to make a decision,” Burnham said. “Is it refurbished or is it a new build?

“In either case there will be some requirement to have some public funds involved because of the train station and there’s a big freight depot right behind Old Trafford, which is an issue as well and that’s something we have got to look at.”

While Burnham accepts funding will be a talking point, he highlighted how taxpayers’ money is frequently used when teams build new stadiums.

“You look at any new-build stadium in the last 20-30 years, there will have been some public funds involved in terms of infrastructure, in supporting development,” he said. “That’s just a fact.

“If you look at the example of West Ham, the Olympic Park, lots of public money has gone in to some developments around the country because of what they can bring to those places.”

Burnham believes the changes would help establish Manchester as the go-to place for elite football, with Milan the only other city boasting two Champions League winners.

“If on the west of Greater Manchester you have United at the heart of a new campus of facilities that links to Media City.

“Then on the side of the city you’ve got Manchester City who continue to build out from the Etihad with a new massive indoor arena going in there. Just think about that.

“No other city in the world would be set up in terms of its football infrastructure. No where would come close to Manchester.”

Brentford manager Thomas Frank dismissed as “disrespectful” speculation linking him with taking over at Manchester United, and hinted at sticking around at the Gtech Stadium long enough to win silverware.

Uncertainty has arisen over the future of United boss Erik ten Hag since new minority investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe took charge of football operations at Old Trafford.

But Frank has distanced himself from any suggestion he could be in the frame to step in and steer the Ineos rebuild.

“A lot of rumours and links,” he said. “I’ve said it before in other situations, I think it’s disrespectful to Erik ten Hag. He is doing everything he can to do well for Manchester United.”

Brentford have enjoyed unprecedented success since the Dane was appointed head coach following the departure of Dean Smith in 2018, guiding them into the Premier league for the first time and securing two comfortable mid-table finishes.

It is the second time this season his name has been linked with a major top-flight club with Liverpool also reported to be considering him when Jurgen Klopp steps down in the summer.

But the 50-year-old said he is as likely to stay in west London and pursue the club’s first major trophy as to seek a challenge elsewhere.

“When I took the head coach job, I don’t think I expected to be here five years later,” said Frank. “Not because I didn’t want to. It’s just impossible to predict where you are. Where I am right now, I’m very happy. It’s a fantastic club.

“It’s very difficult to predict. I’ve got ambitions. I’d like to see what life will potentially give me, what opportunities. But that opportunity could also be staying at Brentford for a long time, win a trophy here.

“It’s natural, a lot of people talking about what is the next aim. For me, instead of dreaming, it’s about getting your head down, work hard, then let’s see.”

Brentford face title-chasing Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, with last season’s top scorer Ivan Toney coming up against a side with whom he has been heavily linked.

Frank has previously hinted the 27-year-old, who scored 20 league goals last season but has less than 18 months left on his Brentford contract, could be sold in the summer, whilst Gunners boss Mikel Arteta has stated he is in the market for a striker.

“Ivan is a Brentford player,” said Frank. “If he is here next season, I’ll be very happy. I think he is a fantastic striker. I understand all the talk about him and all the rumours, because how many strikers have proved they can scored more than 20 goals in the Premier League?

“He is in the peak of his career. We’ve seen so many players that are only getting better, and especially strikers. I think the next four or five years he will be on an absolute top level.

“If any club in the world are missing a top-level striker, I would understand why they were interested in him.”

Erik ten Hag expects Tyrell Malacia to end up missing the entire season through injury as the Manchester United manager’s left-back frustrations continue.

The Red Devils have been beset by problems during a bumpy second term for Ten Hag, who is fighting for his job over the coming weeks and months.

United have had to deal with key absentees and been left light in certain areas, most problematically left-back as Luke Shaw’s issues have compounded the season-long absence of Malacia.

Ten Hag said just under a month ago that he soon hoped to have the Netherlands international back from a knee complaint, having dealt with some setbacks during rehab.

But the United boss will have to keep muddling through at left-back for the foreseeable future after he revealed Malacia’s return is unlikely to come this season.

“We talk about one of my biggest frustrations is there,” Ten Hag said.

“You can accept in a position that a player is not available, but when two players are not available over the course of the season that is very frustrating.

“Because that is also very difficult to catch up as a team, but we dealt with it in the best way, but of course it is a disadvantage.”

Asked how far away Malacia is from returning, the United boss said: “I think it’s going to be difficult for this season to be available.

“He will fight, he’s back on the pitch, but not in the team and the process had some setbacks and is still going really slowly forward, and the season is going to an end.”

That blow puts United’s decision to allow Sergio Reguilon to return to Tottenham midway through a season-long loan in the spotlight.

Signed in September to provide back-up with Malacia lied low, the Spain international was sent back to Spurs in January and has since made a temporary switch to Brentford.

Asked if it was a mistake letting Reguilon go back, frustrated Ten Hag said: “I think it’s a good question because in December I had the talks internally with, of course, medical and performance (staff).

“They assured me they (injured defenders) will be fit in January, they will be both fit in January, so you have two left full-backs.

“Then when you have two left full-backs and you have a third one, that means I always have to disappoint one full-back.”

Malacia was undergoing rehab at that point and Shaw was recovering from an injury issue that kept him out for five weeks, returning in late January against Newport in the FA Cup.

That was one of five appearances the England international managed before sustaining a muscle injury that is expected to rule him out until mid-May.

“I think it’s the same,” Ten Hag said of Shaw. “Maybe for the last games of the season, but we don’t expect him back this or next month.”

The duo are among a number of injuries at a key time for United, with Everton arriving in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime before hosting Liverpool in next weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final.

Those matches could also go a long way to deciding the future of Ten Hag, who he believes Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos understands the issues he has had to contend with this season.

“They are aware of it,” the Dutchman said. “We talk a lot with each other, talk a lot about processes and the way we want to go for the future.”

Pushed on whether they appreciate the difficulties and are understanding, Ten Hag added: “That is what they’re telling me but I’m independent, I’m here to win.

“I’m in a process and we keep going in this process. We know which direction we want to go.

“We have now big setbacks, we’ve had big setbacks but we keep going and have a strong mentality. We keep fighting and keep pushing the team in the right direction.”

Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe called the chance to develop a world-class stadium and regenerate the Old Trafford area a “once-in-a-century opportunity” as Lord Coe was named chair of a new joint task force.

The Red Devils will not be moving away from Old Trafford but have options to redevelop the current ground or build a new one on adjacent club-owned land.

New minority owner Ratcliffe recently said redevelopment will cost around £1billion but favoured a new £2billion stadium that would be among the best in the world.

The Ineos chairman recently said he sees no issue with United seeking state support for a new ground and financing will be one aspect of the ‘Old Trafford Regeneration Task Force’, which will explore “the development of a world-class football stadium at the heart of the project” to regenerate the area.

United co-owner Ratcliffe said: “This can be a major regeneration project for an area of Greater Manchester which has played such a key role in British industrial history, but which today requires new investment to thrive again.

“The north-west of England has a greater concentration of major football clubs than anywhere else in the world, yet we don’t have a stadium on the scale of Wembley, the Nou Camp or Bernabeu.

“We will not be able to change that on our own, which is why this task force is so important to help us seize this once-in-a-century opportunity.”

Lord Coe, the London 2012 chief, has been named as chair of a task force comprised of local leaders and national experts, including Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, and former United captain Gary Neville.

The Glazer family, who remain majority owners of the Premier League club, were conspicuous by their absence from the press release and list of task force members.

The task force “will assess the feasibility of a new stadium of national significance equipped to host international games and finals, as well as providing a modernised home for Manchester United”.

Lord Coe said: “Throughout my career in sport, I have seen the potential for stadiums to become focal points for strong communities and catalysts for social and economic development.

“That was certainly true of the venues we built in east London for the 2012 Olympics, and we are overdue a project of similar scale and ambition in the north of England.

“I am honoured to have this opportunity to share my experience in support of this tremendously exciting project.”

Ratcliffe met local leaders even before his minority stake received ratification last month to discuss the potential for redevelopment of Old Trafford and the surrounding area.

The Ineos chairman met with Burnham during that period and the Mayor of Greater Manchester has hailed the “bold and exciting vision for the future of Old Trafford and the surrounding area.”

“The development of one of the most iconic stadiums in world football will help attract investment, create jobs, and lead to new opportunities that will not just benefit Trafford but communities across our city-region and beyond,” he said.

“Greater Manchester has been a hive of innovation and creativity for centuries, and sport has played a huge role in shaping our past and present.”

An economic impact study will be commissioned as part of a project that will involve close consultation with fans and local residents.

The task force is expected to make recommendations later this year and Neville is excited to be involved in plans for United’s home and the local area.

“I’m incredibly fortunate to have had the privilege of playing hundreds of games at Old Trafford, and no one can take away those amazing memories,” Neville, who co-owns Hotel Football opposite the stadium, said.

“But Old Trafford has evolved throughout its history and it’s clear we are at a point where it has to change again to ensure that Manchester United has a world-class stadium befitting the world’s greatest club.

“While I want the best for Manchester United, I also want the same for the surrounding community.

“Old Trafford should be a stadium that the whole of Greater Manchester can take pride in, and be a catalyst for sustainable, cohesive growth in an area of the city that has been neglected for too long.”

Pep Guardiola has thanked Sir Jim Ratcliffe for ‘helping him do his job’ by stating his admiration for Manchester City.

New Manchester United co-owner Ratcliffe recently spoke of his ambition to knock neighbours City, and another of their rivals in Liverpool, “off their perch”.

Yet in doing so he conceded United had fallen well behind both of those clubs and admitted much could be learned from their success.

He even went as far as to say City’s 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League semi-finals was “the best quality of football I’ve ever seen”.

Guardiola says such compliments are a source of pride and feed his continuing desire for success.

The City manager, whose side host United on Sunday, said: “I just say thank you so much.

“Sometimes they are more than the titles, the compliments of the personalities that make this country, like Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s comments. It is a complete honour for us.

“One can produce emotions and feelings for the players and our rivals. That helps to do our job. Thank you so much on behalf of all of us.

“But I am sure tomorrow they will try, one way or another, to inoculate the Man Utd players with the best performance to try to beat us.”

This weekend’s derby could be a key encounter for champions City in their bid to win a fourth successive Premier League title.

Considering their recent superiority over their neighbours, and United’s inconsistency this season, City are expected to come out on top but Guardiola is wary of the pitfalls of the fixture.

He said: “Do you remember when United went to Anfield this season? Last season it was 7-0.

“Remember the comments? How many goal are Liverpool going to score? It would be easy for Liverpool.

“What was the result? Liverpool didn’t win.

“It is United. The past is the past. Tomorrow it is 11 players with pride, with a manager – we cannot deny how good he has done in the past in Amsterdam – trying to do his best.

“In different situations, with City in the position of United, I know my players would behave at Old Trafford with pride and the best character. It is going to happen to United on Sunday.

“It will be a tough game, another final for us. I know how difficult it will be.

“It has been more difficult here than at Old Trafford in our period together. We lost more (derby) games here than Old Trafford. We have to perform really well to do it.”

Manchester United can learn from Manchester City’s success but will not try to copy their methods, according to manager Erik Ten Hag.

United head to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday for the Manchester derby once again a long way adrift of their neighbours in the Premier League.

A restructuring of United’s football hierarchy is under way following the investment made by Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group, with their first move to bring in Omar Berrada from City as chief executive.

Ten Hag said: “I think you can always learn from opponents who are successful and you have to do it if you want to go to high levels but, at the same time, we have to do it in a United way.

“This is a different club with a different environment, with a different DNA. But you pick up things that can be successful and you integrate it in your own model.”

Ratcliffe wasted no time setting out his ambitions for United, arguing they can knock City and Liverpool “off their perch” in three years.

United went into the weekend sitting 15 points below City and 16 adrift of Liverpool but Ten Hag insists he welcomes Ratcliffe setting public targets.

“It helps,” said the Dutchman. “We have to show ambition. We want to be the best and that is what United stands for. But, at the same time, we know also where we are now.

“We also have seen that there are moments where we go toe-to-toe. That’s the belief we have as a team. We have to pick up these moments and we have to prove it in every game. I think we are able to with this squad we have.”

United have lost five of their last six matches against City, including a 6-3 defeat at the Etihad last season and a 3-0 home loss in October.

“At this moment I have a lot of respect for them but not the respect that we think we can’t win this game,” said Ten Hag.

“On the contrary, we will show we can win this game. In the (FA) Cup final, we showed we were very close. Also first half at Old Trafford in the home game before that crazy VAR moment changes the game completely.

“The second half we didn’t play well and they played very well, so don’t let them come into the game, that is I think what we have to take with us for Sunday.”

Ahead of the last derby, City boss Pep Guardiola said Liverpool rather than United were his side’s biggest rivals, and Ten Hag added: “The last decade, that is the way it went.

“I think it’s a fair assessment. But we can’t accept this as a club. We have to bounce back. As Sir Jim says, we have to show ambition, we want to be the number one. I think that’s a good ambition.”

The president of La Liga says he “doesn’t care” about Mason Greenwood’s past and wants the Manchester United forward to stay in Spain beyond this season.

The 22-year-old faced charges including attempted rape and assault but the Crown Prosecution Service announced in February last year that the case had been discontinued.

He moved to Getafe on loan last summer, and La Liga chief Javier Tebas has been impressed with him to such a degree he hopes he stays for the longer term.

“He’s doing really well at Getafe as a player and I hope he continues to be successful and he continues to stay in Spanish football because that’s always good for us,” Tebas told a media briefing at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit on Thursday.

“He is just another player. He had a past, but not a past we can do anything about. He was innocent and wasn’t condemned. We can’t be judges for everything. If we did that, we’d have no teams.

“I’m a lawyer, so it’s important to say he is not condemned. He was acquitted here (in the UK). Should we have reopened the case in Spain? Do I know the case in great detail? No.

“Greenwood was not condemned, so I don’t care.”

Manchester United’s co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe said last week that a fresh decision would be made on Greenwood this summer now that Ineos has been delegated control of football operations at Old Trafford.

Reports last year that United were planning to retain him following an internal investigation were met by public outcry and Ratcliffe acknowledges that a decision will have to be made when Greenwood returns about what happens next – but insists nothing has been finalised yet.

“It’s quite clear we have to make a decision. There is no decision that’s been made,” Ratcliffe said at a media briefing to mark the completion of his purchase of a minority stake in United.

Asked asked if the Greenwood situation would be a “fresh decision”, Ratcliffe said: “Yeah we will. Absolutely. We will make a decision, and we will justify it one way or the other.”

Ratcliffe added: “He’s on loan obviously, but he’s not the only one – we’ve got one or two footballers that we have to deal with and we have to make a decision on, so we will do that.”

Erik ten Hag insists he does not need a public vote of confidence from Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Speculation has been rife about the future of the Dutchman as Manchester United manager following investment in the club from Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group.

A promising run of results ended with a poor performance in defeat against Fulham last weekend, putting the focus back on Ten Hag’s position.

That will ratchet up again should United fail to beat Nottingham Forest on Wednesday in the FA Cup, which is their only remaining chance of silverware this season.

Ten Hag said: “I’m here, I’m under contract for three seasons, so I don’t care. I’m only focusing on the process so I don’t care what’s going around me.

“I have many talks with Jim Ratcliffe but especially also with Sir Dave Brailsford so I know what we are talking about. I have a strong belief and I feel that they believe in me.

“I’m just focusing on the team and I have to find solutions for this team that they perform in the best way they can. It’s all about focusing on this and don’t get distracted by any noise.

“We’re talking about the future, we’re talking about a future together.”

Ten Hag’s tactics and recruitment have attracted criticism, with the performances of Brazil winger Antony particularly under the spotlight.

The 24-year-old cost more than £80million when he followed Ten Hag from Ajax to Old Trafford in 2022 but he has been a peripheral figure this season, with his only goal coming against Newport in the FA Cup.

Against Fulham, teenager Omari Forson started on the right and Amad Diallo was also sent on ahead of Antony, who only came off the bench in the 89th minute.

Antony took a leave of absence earlier in the season to address allegations of domestic abuse in Brazil, which he denied, and Ten Hag believes that had an effect on his form.

“Now he left this behind but for a moment in the season it had absolutely an impact on him and you could see in his performance, in his attitude,” said the United boss.

“But now he’s back. Of course it affected him and the process is still going, now he has to turn the point and to bring his big potential again in.

“You have to fight and you have to give every day the maximum. I see in the training he’s doing (that) so he will turn a corner.

“When the issue was in Brazil, he came back and he wasn’t any more the person like he was before, and that did something with his belief.

“One of the big skills from Antony is that he’s very brave. He has to find that back and that’s up to him. We will support him, absolutely all the staff, me as a manager. I have 100 per cent belief in him.”

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