Erik ten Hag has warned his Manchester United team of the dangers of complacency as they attempt to wrap up a place in next season’s Champions League.Man United are well-placed to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League, which would mean qualification for Europe’s elite club competition.
The Red Devils, who face a tricky trip to Brighton on Thursday, are fourth in the table behind Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle, seven points ahead of Liverpool with a game in hand.
But Ten Hag, whose side have already won the League Cup this season and meet City in the FA Cup final next month, has urged his men to stay focused for the last stretch of the season.
The Dutch manager was asked by reporters on Wednesday how satisfying it was to be close to Champions League qualification in his first season at Old Trafford.
“I never want to talk during a season of being proud or satisfaction,” he said. “Satisfaction can lead to laziness. We have six (league) games to go and every game we want to win. You need full focus, full energy, you need full preparation.
“Tomorrow, definitely, it’s going to be a fight and we have to get ready for that fight to get the points. We want to win every game, we want to win every competition.
“It’s clear we want to be in the Champions League and that’s the competition we’re now fighting for and now it’s in this moment the only thing we have to focus on because the FA Cup final is after the season so the only thing that we now have to do is get this done.”
Brighton are the only away team to have won at Old Trafford in the league this season but lost a penalty shootout in the recent FA Cup semi-final between the two teams.
Ten Hag admitted Brighton would have “huge motivation” to avenge that defeat.
“We have to match that and not only match that – we have to do more,” he said. “We have to show we have more hunger than them to win this game.”
Varane return –
Ten Hag said defender Raphael Varane was on course to return before the end of the season.
The 30-year-old went off injured in last month’s Europa League quarter-final first leg against Sevilla, when fellow centre-back Lisandro Martinez suffered a season-ending metatarsal injury.
Varane will be unavailable against Brighton and at West Ham on Sunday, but could return after that.
Another player closing in on a return to action is 18-year-old winger Alejandro Garnacho, who suffered an ankle injury against Southampton in March.
The Argentina Under-20 player last week signed a new long-term contract with the club and Ten Hag is excited by what is to come.
“It’s great he made it because it tells we will give young players opportunities but they have to deserve it,” said the United boss.
He added: “Now the demands will be even more because he has now to compete for a starting XI position. So every time is the same – you have to cross limits and every time you have to go in the next level.”