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Erik ten Hag speaks on title race, Maguire & De Gea decisions plus Jadon Sancho

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has said that he does not want to speak on the club’s title prospects during pre-season.

The Red Devils had a promising debut campaign under Ten Hag last term. They finished third in the top-flight with 75 points, 14 behind champions Manchester City.

This was a significant improvement from the 2021/22 season where the gap was 35 points to City, but Ten Hag has insisted that it is too early to speak on a title challenge.

In a press conference (via The Athletic), Ten Hag said that the initial objective is to finish in the top four next season, and the club need to get into the top two to think about the title.

He said: “I think in pre-season we shouldn’t talk about that. I think no one in the Premier League can do that — maybe City can do that because for the last six years they won the title five times.”

“But any other club must first compete for the first four positions (in the table), and make sure you are getting in the first four and then, after, the first two, and then maybe you can see about getting yourself into such a position (to win the title), but don’t talk about that achievement.”

Ten Hag has made some shrewd signings since taking charge at the club. This includes stripping Harry Maguire from the captaincy as well as deciding against a new deal for David de Gea.

When pressed on those decisions, the Dutchman highlighted the difference between a manager and a human being. He said that he made those choices in an honest and transparent way.

He added: “It’s the difference between a manager and a human being. In the end, top football is about getting results and then you have to make decisions, but you have to do it in an honest and transparent way.”

“The club appointed me to take such decisions in these moments, but to also communicate those decisions and do it in a straight and honest way. That is what I’m always looking to do. I always try to do it in that way.”

Elsewhere, Ten Hag was asked whether it could be a make-or-break season for Jadon Sancho. In response, the 53-year-old said that he has the skills and now needs to show consistency.

Sancho has been experimented from the false number nine role in pre-season, and the manager believes the end-product is key for a front player. Goals are essential to being successful.

He replied: “He has the skills, so also for him it’s the same. He has to show consistently that he can make a huge contribution. When you are a front player that end-product is the key. So make sure you are making the key actions, the final pass, and get your goals in, because that’s why he is here.”

United have have a mixed pre-season campaign. They won against the likes of Leeds United, Lyon and Arsenal before disappointing losses against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

The club have another two friendlies against RC Lens and Athletic Bilbao on August 5 and August 6 respectively. Ten Hag will be expecting nothing less than a victory in those games.

United start their Premier League campaign against Wolverhampton Wanderers on August 14.

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