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Man Utd: Erik ten Hag must secure a Champions League place and Frenkie de Jong is ‘top class’, says Jamie Carragher | Soccer News

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Jamie Carragher has admitted it “doesn’t feel good” to see Manchester United compete in the Europa League but says it won’t be easy for them to get back into the top four this season.

United finished sixth in the Premier League in a hugely disappointing 2021/22 campaign, which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked in November and caretaker replacement Ralf Rangnick endure a disappointing sixth month in charge.

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The club failed to lift a trophy for the fifth consecutive season and were knocked out of the Champions League in the Round of 16 by Atletico Madrid.

All of this means United will be in the Europa League for the third time in four seasons, and they will do so under Erik ten Hag, who left Ajax to replace Rangnick at Old Trafford in the summer.

The Dutchman had a positive start on the pitch, with United beating Liverpool in Thailand in their opener before also overseeing wins over Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace in Australia.

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Watch Manchester United continue their impressive pre-season form with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace in Melbourne. All United’s tour matches are available on MUTV, Sky Channel 418

Asked by Sky Sports News on whether he was “nervous” that United might be able to challenge for the title in Ten Hag’s first season, former Liverpool defender Carragher said: “I wouldn’t say nervous. I think there’s a long way for United who they are on at the moment in terms of a title challenge.

“I think the first thing to do when it comes to Ten Hag and the players they bring will be: ‘We need to get this club back to the Champions League, where it belongs’. That’s where Manchester United should be. .

“It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world, let alone this country, so not being in the Champions League doesn’t feel right to me, not when United are in the Europa League.

Man Utd’s next five fixtures

  • Aston Villa (N) – Friendly, Saturday July 23, kick-off 10.45am
  • Atletico Madrid (N) – Friendly, Saturday July 30, kick-off at 12:45 p.m.
  • Rayo Vallecano (H) – Friendly, Sunday July 31, kick-off 4 p.m.
  • Brighton (H) – Premier League, Sunday August 7, kick-off at 2 p.m., live on Sky Sports
  • Brentford (A) – Premier League, Saturday August 13, kick-off 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports

“So I think that’s the first thing to do and I think once United have done that they will be looking at the title in the next couple of years.

“But it won’t be easy to get back into the top four this season – not just for United but for any team that is normally in the top four.

“You would expect [Manchester] City and Liverpool do it because they’re still aiming for the title, but you look at how strong Chelsea will be and the signings they bring in, the work of Tottenham too, Arsenal too.

“So I think in terms of competition now, to get into the top four is really tough, and that’s been proven by many Manchester United managers with great CVs in the past.

“But there is no doubt that this manager has a very good CV and has made a very good start to the pre-season.”

‘De Jong would make a huge difference for Man Utd’

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag talks about two of his summer signings, hailing Christian Eriksen’s creativity and describing Lisandro Martinez as a warrior

Part of Ten Hag’s tenure as new United manager has been to play a major role in overhauling the team which performed so poorly last season.

A number of experienced first-team players – Juan Mata, Edinson Cavani, jesse lingard, Nemanja Mátic and Paul Pogba – were allowed to leave the club at the end of their contract, while Dean Henderson and Andreas Pereira also left.

Ten Hag started to reshape the squad he inherited by signing left-back from Feyenoord Tyrell Malacia and pick up free agent Christian Eriksonwhile United are also set to sign versatile defender Lisandro Martinez from Ajax.

But the pursuit of Frankie de Jong – another target Ten Hag previously coached at Ajax – has frustrated United so far this summer, with negotiations dragging on throughout the window.

United and Barcelona have a broad agreement in place for a £72million deal, but the move locks in more than £17million in backdated wages that De Jong is owed by the Spanish club after accepting a pay cut during the Covid pandemic.

There are also reports that the midfielder is unsure of a move to Old Trafford, while United’s Premier League rivals Chelsea are also keen on the Dutch international.

But if Ten Hag gets his wish and reunites with De Jong at Old Trafford, Carragher says it could be a game-changer for the club.

“It will be interesting if they get De Jong,” said Carragher Sky Sports News. “I think he’s a top player and I think he would make a huge difference for them.”

‘So far so good’ – Ten Hag on intensity of Man Utd tour and De Jong chase

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag admits he would have preferred to enter pre-season with a fully equipped squad which would ideally have included Frenkie de Jong

Erik ten Hag says the first three weeks of pre-season with Manchester United have been “so far so good”, but admits he would have liked all the signings to be in place now that their pursuit of Frenkie de Jong continues.

Sky Sports’ Senior reporter Melissa Reddy reported this week that United players have felt “physically fit and mentally sharper” since Ten Hag took over at Old Trafford and, in an exclusive interview, the Dutchman admitted he was impressed – but not yet satisfied – with what he saw of the group.

“I see them reacting well and giving their all in every session, and that also carries over to the game,” he said.

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Manchester United players feel ‘physically fit and mentally sharper’ after impressing new manager Erik ten Hag in training, says Melissa Reddy

“I’m not happy. I think they need to bring more but it won’t come overnight. It takes time, it’s a process.

“The demand is that they have to be fitter than they are now. But we are building it. It is also the responsibility of the players themselves to be fit.

“They reacted very well but I know we are at the start of a process and that takes time. We need the whole pre-season, at a minimum, but I also know that at the start of the season we won’t be ready. But I also know that in the beginning we will need results.”

Read Melissa Reddy’s full article here.

Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this summer when the transfer window opens on June 10 and closes at 11 p.m. on September 1?

Keep up to date with all the latest transfer news and rumors in our dedicated Transfer Center blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up on the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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