Erik ten Hag has emphasised the importance of qualifying for the Champions League in order to attract signings to bolster his rebuilding project at Manchester United.
Three-time Champions League winners United have not progressed past the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier competition since 2011 and had to settle for Europa League football this season after finishing sixth in the Premier League last season.
Ten Hag is on course to restore Champions League football to Old Trafford in his first season in charge, with United having the chance to strengthen their grip on a top-four finish when they head to high-flying Brighton on Thursday, live on Sky Sports.
With the overall objective to guide United back to winning the Champions League and Premier League, Ten Hag underlined how crucial qualification would be to convincing the required standard of player to join the club this summer.
“All the big players want to play in the Champions League,” he told Sky Sports. “Manchester United is a big club. In the period I’ve been here, I’ve noticed everyone wants to play for Manchester United.
“Now it looks like we are in the Champions League, there is even more interest because they know we are in the Champions League and the Premier League at a high level. So, qualification will be important.”
He continued: “In the Champions League you face the best teams across Europe, the best managers, in the best stadiums.
“For the players, they face the best players and [as a team] you are in a better league schedule, that is also important. It’s very important for the rebuild of this club that we are in the Champions League.
“The players know they want to be in the Champions League, they want to be at the top of the Premier League. We fight for every position, and, on the pitch, we fight for every yard, every duel because that is the meaning of top football.”
Brighton are the only away team to have won at Old Trafford in the Premier League this term, inflicting defeat on Ten Hag in his very first game in charge.
United enacted revenge for that opening-day defeat by dumping the Seagulls out of the FA Cup on penalties in their recent semi-final at Wembley.
It kept United on course to win a second trophy this season after triumphing in February’s Carabao Cup final victory over Newcastle, and Ten Hag believes a lot has changed since Brighton contributed to his turbulent start at Old Trafford.
“It was a long time ago,” the United boss added. “At the start of a process you don’t want it, but it can happen. It’s quite normal that no team is running 100 per cent from the start.
“I will say it would be a bad situation if we were playing worse football now than nine, 10 months ago. We have improved a lot; we are heading in the right direction.
“I will never be satisfied; we can always be better. Good for me is not good enough. We have to do better and always go to the next level.
“We have seen we are in the right direction but there’s still a long way to go. Some teams have already been building for three, four or five years and are further in the process. That is what you see at this moment in comparison with other big teams.”