Erik ten Hag has told his Manchester United players ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Aston Villa: “Every game is a final”.
Ten Hag knows he must deliver Champions League football if he is to hang on to his job beyond the summer. Minority shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe has taken control of football operations and not even winning the FA Cup in 2016 could save Louis van Gaal from the sack when he missed out on the top four.
Ratcliffe is busy putting the building blocks in place to reshape United after years in the wilderness and Ten Hag must prove over the remainder of the campaign that he can be part of that future.
United jumped above West Ham into sixth when they beat the Hammers at Old Trafford last Sunday and they can close to within five points of fourth-placed Villa if they win at Villa Park on Sunday.
The game is huge for United and Ten Hag has not shied away from telling his players how important the run-in is for them. “I’ve said to the team from the start of January that every game is now a final,” said the United boss.
“That was also our approach to West Ham United, and we were one point behind them, so this is a final. So let’s take on this challenge. We have to see this as a final. That will be every game from now on, for us. We’re already in that mood.”
United achieved their result of the season when they battled back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Villa on Boxing Day at Old Trafford. That victory has been a catalyst for their campaign and they have lost just one of their last six games.
Their five-match unbeaten run is their best of their testing season and they have banged in 11 goals in winning their last three matches. Youngsters Alejandro Garnacho, Rasmus Hojlund and Kobbie Mainoo are delivering goals and TenRead on m.allfootballapp.com