Erik ten Hag: Manchester United must return to Champions League

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Erik ten Hag has been unveiled, finally, as Manchester United’s boss and he’s clearly had plenty of time to figure out what he wanted to discuss with the media and the message he wants to send to the Old Trafford set.

First things first, he knows how much it matters for the Red Devils to return to the UEFA Champions League.

“We have to return as quickly as possible to that competition,” Ten Hag said plainly when asked about the idea of playing former club Ajax one day in the competition.

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That could happen through a top four finish next season (not too likely) or a Europa League win (probably a little more likely).

Mostly, Ten Hag issued a number of straightforward comments (not without a good deal of personality) that wouldn’t raise the eyebrows of anyone who wasn’t aiming to have raised eyebrows.

Some will, however, point to his answer to the question of whether United could end the dynastic run of Manchester City and runners-up Liverpool atop the Premier League table.

Can Man Utd end Man City’s (and Liverpool’s) hold on the Premier League?

“In this moment, I admire them both,” Ten Hag said, via Sky Sports. “They play really fantastic football, both Liverpool and Man City. But you always see an era can come to an end and I’m looking forward to battling with them… and I am sure all the other clubs in the Premier League want to do that.”

United’s miles off the strength it showed in winning the Premier League five times in seven years through 2011-12. They’ve finished 7th, 4th, 5th, 6th, 2nd, 6th, 3rd, 2nd, and 6th since Alex Ferguson retired but the second-place finishes were 19 and 12 points behind crosstown rivals Man City.

The Red Devils’ 58 points collected by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick this season are its worst haul since taking 48 in 1989-90. Its nine-year wait to win a title is its second-longest of the modern era and certainly doesn’t look likely to end (unless the club brings in, I don’t know, Frenkie de Jong, Jules Kounde, and Robert Lewandowski while insuring that all of its malcontents skip town.

Ten Hag might be a good bet to win Premier League Manager of the Season next year if only because getting 10-12 more points than last year would simply mean doing the club’s usual run through a season.

But Man City’s going to be a new animal next season with Erling Haaland and Liverpool’s done a good job of reloading with Luis Diaz and other youngsters joining the fray. The era has to end at some point, but it’s doesn’t look like it’ll be soon.