Erik ten Hag insists Manchester United need “better players” if they are to mount a credible title challenge next season.
United secured qualification for the Champions League with a 4-1 victory over Chelsea in their penultimate Premier League game of the campaign. That win has lifted United to third and they could record only their fourth top-three finish in the last decade with victory over Fulham at Old Trafford on Sunday.
With standards raised in a season that is already an undeniable success, many United supporters will expect an overdue tilt at the championship in 2023-24.
Champions Manchester City are 17 points clear of United and Ten Hag, who is eager to add a striker, a midfielder and at least one defender to his squad, reiterated United have to reinforce in the summer transfer window.
“It’s difficult to say in this moment, you have to see now how you come out of the transfer window but if I see now we need more,” Ten Hag stressed. “But I don’t have so much patience, that is one of my mistakes.
“We want to win every game but also, as I just tried to explain, it’s tough here, there are really good teams, especially this season. Manchester City are playing really outstanding football. We have a way to go, we are in the right direction, we have work to do, so a work in progress.”
Ten Hag agreed that a top-four finish represented the equivalent of a trophy, something Arsene Wenger first voiced during his Arsenal epoch.
Arsenal’s title drought – now certain to stretch to 20 years – frustrated their supporters as they seemed sanguine with finishing in the Champions League qualifying places. Ten Hag clarified he will not settle for that. “Not good enough for me.
“I think in this league, that’s a good base to be in the top four but, yeah, we want to compete for the title. But it has to be realistic and you can first say when you have your squad in the end of the transfer window and also the winter transfer window that you can do, the squad is there and you can make a statement about if it’s realistic or not.
“Now we are far away, so we have a lot of work to do, we’ve made progress with this team, with this squad but we need better players if we want to compete for the highest.
“I think in the Premier League, yeah, it(top four)’s something like [a trophy], it’s the main objective of the season to get in the Champions League, so therefore you have to see yourself in the top four.
“The competition is tough, there are many teams with really good squads, good managers, so when you are in there, you did a good job and your team is playing well and performing well and for this moment this is the maximum but we want more.”
Casemiro scored the opening goal of United’s defeat of Chelsea and he has missed eight domestic matches this term through three separate suspensions.
The first of those was in the 3-2 loss at then-leaders Arsenal in January and while Ten Hag believes United should have more points, he feels they would still have fallen short of challenging City and Arsenal if Casemiro was more available.
“I don’t think this season, it wasn’t the case,” he opined. “But we should definitely have more points. All over, the team made good progress, many players played a really fantastic season and it’s a good base to build on but the standards have to go up and the demands have to rise.
“And therefore, we have to work in the summer with this squad but in the window see if we can strengthen the squad.”