Ten Hag still sees potential in Man United after 3-2 win over Newcastle as forgettable season nears end

Manchester United, who have never finished lower than seventh in the Premier League, need to better Newcastle's result at Brentford on Sunday to move up to seventh place.
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 09:10 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 09:10 IST

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Manchester, England: Amad Diallo scored his first Premier League goal and assisted on another to power Manchester United to a 3-2 victory over Newcastle United on Wednesday at Old Trafford in a battle between teams fighting for a European berth next season.

Erik ten Hag's team remained eighth in the table but level on 57 points with seventh-placed Newcastle. Chelsea are sixth on 60 points after beating Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 earlier on Wednesday to take a big step toward clinching a European berth.

"Obviously the job isn't finished yet," Manchester United skipper Bruno Fernandes told Sky Sports. "We still have one game in the Premier League then the biggest game of the season, the FA Cup final (on May 25 against holders Manchester City).

"It has been a tough season," he added. "The table shows that and we are all aware of that. The fans have been amazing and behind us all season. We all appreciate what they have been doing for us. We want to do better and do differently and (the fans) deserve that."

Kobbie Mainoo capitalised on Newcastle's appalling defence to get the home side on the scoreboard in the 31st minute. Diallo spotted the 19-year-old unmarked near the penalty spot and Mainoo -- kept onside by a half-asleep Kieran Trippier -- turned and fired home.

Anthony Gordon drew Newcastle level in the 49th minute when he slid to stab in a cross from Jacob Murphy. But Diallo put Ten Hag's team back on top eight minutes later when Fernandes' corner was headed out, and Diallo, prowling alone just inside the 18-yard-box rifled in a shot which keeper Martin Dubravka had little chance of saving.

Rasmus Hojlund, who entered the game in the 82nd minute, scored two minutes later when he cut inside two defenders and slotted home from 16 yards, holding up a finger as if to silence the crowd.

Newcastle's Lewis Hall pulled one back in injury time, but Ten Hag's men held on to end one of the most miserable home seasons in years with a victory.

Ten Hag addressed the Old Trafford crowd after the game, thanking them for being the "best supporters in the world."

"As you know it wasn't an easy season, but one thing remained constant and that was the backing of you for the team," Ten Hag, whose job has been the subject of speculation amid his team's struggles this season, said to cheers from the red-clad crowd.

"This season is not over yet. First we go to Brighton where we travel for three points (on the final day of the season on Sunday) and then we go to Wembley. And I promise you those players will give everything to get that cup and bring it to Old Trafford."

If Ten Hag's men win the FA Cup, they will play in the Europa League next season. However, if they fail to win the Cup, they will need to finish seventh to secure a place in the Europa Conference League.

Manchester United, who have never finished lower than seventh in the Premier League, need to better Newcastle's result at Brentford on Sunday to move up to seventh place.

Both teams had numerous scoring chances and Newcastle screamed for a penalty late in the first half after Gordon was taken down in the box in a tackle that left a gaping hole in the back of his sock. After a VAR review, no penalty was given.

"I don't understand the point in VAR? (Sofyan) Amrabat fouled me and it's a clear penalty," Anthony told Sky. "Get rid (of VAR) or get better."

While it has been a season to forget for Manchester United, manager Erik ten Hag said he has maintained a positive outlook virtually throughout because he sees the potential of his squad and understands the reasons behind their struggles.

"I see the positives, I see that this team is developing, I know the reasons why we are not performing," Ten Hag said. "No team will perform when the whole (injury-depleted) back four is not available, across the season.

"Even striker Rasmus Hojlund, three times injured, (Marcus) Rashford also injured, so we have had our problems across the season and that has a negative impact on the results," he said, adding "(But) you see players performing and you see players progressing like the youngsters and that is very positive, there is a high potential in this club. So, there are also many positives in this season, but I can't mention this. You know why -- at the end of the day, we have to win trophies. And in the Premier League, and in the Champions League, we didn't perform what people expect from us."

The victory at Old Trafford in their home finale felt like a reward for fans who have endured one of the worst home campaigns in the club's history, and Ten Hag addressed the supporters he called the "best in the world" after the final whistle.

"We wanted to thank them for sticking with us, we are in difficult times," he told Sky Sports. "We are in a transition at this club and the results are not what we expect. We also have our reasons, but it's still a disappointing season.

"I am very pleased (with Wednesday's win). In the past months we had many games where we were in winning positions but we couldn't get over the line."

Published 16 May 2024, 09:10 IST

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