Football: Ten Hag focused on football despite Man United takeover talks

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (centre) during a training session ahead of the Europa League clash with Barcelona. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON – Manchester United are not being distracted by the prospect of the club being taken over and are remaining focused on their footballing ambitions, according to manager Erik ten Hag.

The initial deadline for bids for the club expired on Friday, with a number of offers – including one from Qatar and another from Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe – made for what could be the biggest sports deal ever.

“We are following it, it’s our club,” ten Hag said, ahead of Sunday’s English Premier League home match against Leicester City.

“And, of course, we are committed but we are focusing on football, on training and our way of play, and games, we are focusing on that.

“We are enjoying our togetherness at the moment. It’s really enjoyable to work and we are focusing on games, and we are in four competitions. Others in the club will have to make decisions and give efforts in the process, but it’s not up to us.”

Asked if the club’s ownership had kept him abreast of proceedings, the Dutchman added: “From the start, yes. They informed me how the process will go.

“I focus on football, they are focusing on other parts and departments of the club on how to get everything financed.”

United, who are third in the Premier League, drew 2-2 with Barcelona in the Europa League play-off round, first leg on Thursday and ten Hag knows that his side will have to fight if they are to return to the more illustrious Champions League.

The Red Devils were in Europe’s elite competition in 2022 but were knocked out by Atletico Madrid in the last 16 and failed to qualify for this season’s edition after a sixth-placed league finish.

“We are in the right direction, but we have to fight for it,” the former Ajax Amsterdam coach said.

“There are two ways – one is the Europa League and one is the Premier League.

“We know what we have to do and we have to see it from game to game, to fight and to get back into the Champions League.”

The focus on Sunday, however, will be on Leicester and the Premier League.

Casemiro, who played against Barcelona at the Nou Camp, will serve the final game of his three-match domestic ban.

Antony, Scott McTominay, Christian Eriksen, Donny van de Beek and Anthony Martial remain sidelined. However, Lisandro Martinez and Marcel Sabitzer are back in contention, having missed the trip to Catalonia due to suspension.

“You don’t want to miss them in the squad. They are important players for our team,” ten Hag said of the duo.

“They are back in the squad, which is good. That will strengthen the squad, so we will have a good team on Sunday.”

The Red Devils are in good form, having lost just one of their last 10 league games. They are also unbeaten in 16 matches at home in all competitions.

But a resurgent Leicester side will not be pushovers. The Foxes head into the game following back-to-back wins over Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur, scoring four goals each on both occasions.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said on Friday that he was impressed by United’s recent impressive performances, while praising ten Hag for the influence he has had on his players.

“I look at Man United and see the introduction of new players. Eriksen, Martinez and Casemiro is a world-class player. He’s calm, he has quality. Thankfully, for us, he’s suspended,” he said.

“He’s given them a stabilising effect. Erik and his team, they’ve given them good organisation.

“Then they have a collective group. They are up there competing and played a good game against Barcelona.”

Jonny Evans is still injured for the Foxes, while James Justin and Ryan Bertrand are still out having suffered long-term injuries. REUTERS

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