After the last-minute defeat away at Brighton, Manchester United are set to travel to London to face West Ham as they bid to keep their top-four place secure.
With arch-rivals Liverpool breathing down their necks, manager Erik ten Hag knows the importance of a win on Sunday against the Hammers.
It has not been an easy season considering the number of games United have played this season. The sheer volume of games have started to take a toll on the players who have looked leggy in the last few weeks.
The Red Devils have won the Carabao Cup, reached the FA Cup semifinal and lost in the quarterfinals of the Europa League, all while fighting for a Champions League slot in the Premier League.
Add to it the World Cup and several international breaks, and the mad schedule becomes apparent. Despite the Thursday-Sunday schedule, Ten Hag believes his team have done quite well.
““It has already an impact on the whole season and we are doing quite well in the schedule – not quite well, but really well,” Ten Hag said in the pre-match presser.
“We have a big disadvantage against others. West Ham United is a team that I think has a worse schedule than we [do] but we showed all season already that we can deal with that. We are physically and mentally very strong.”
The Dutch manager, however, cannot wait to get back to the Champions League which will allow for more rest between games.
“That’s the great advantage of playing in the Champions League: you have a better week.”
And he knows how tough it will be to secure a spot in the top-four with so many teams chasing them and after suffering that last-minute heartbreak.
That is the exact message he is trying to hammer through to the players and has been trying to get them fired up to give a 100 per cent in games as opposed to 99 per cent sometimes.
“Yeah, but that is what I am telling them for every game and in every training. You have to be ready for every game in the Premier League and if you want to win in four competitions, you have to be so prepared.
“You need so much energy, you need a good gameplan and every game you have to go again. You can’t do it at 99 per cent. You have to do it at 100 per cent. You have to do it over the full 95 minutes and that’s why we like it.
“Top players like it, to have huge challenges, but that costs energy. That’s our job, that’s our responsibility. We have to take it and we lay this aside. On Sunday, we go again and I’m sure we will be there.”
He also reserved special praise for former United boss and current West Ham manager David Moyes.
He was the one who succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson and even though it ended in failure, the Dutchman feels he deserves credit for his bravery.
“It’s quite clear that when you have to succeed Sir Alex, that’s a big challenge. That is a really difficult job to do. He did it, he had the bravery to do it and so that’s why I think I admire him that much.”
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