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Man United can turn attention to improving in Premier League, Ten Hag says

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While Manchester United’s involvement in European competition came to a crashing end on Tuesday with their 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich, embattled manager Erik ten Hag said his team can now focus on improving their disappointing Premier League position.

The three-time European champions needed both to beat Bayern in their Champions League group stage finale and have Copenhagen’s game against visiting Galatasaray end in a draw to advance to the last-16. Neither happened and United finished with four points from six games.

Their fourth-place finish meant they did not even have the consolation of qualifying for the Europa League.

“There are still many things to play for and now we can focus, of course, on the Premier League and this is the level we want to play, Champions League, so we have to give every effort to be in the top four and next year be back in Champions League,” Ten Hag told reporters.

“And then of course, we have the FA Cup, so there are so many things to play for.”

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Kingsley Coman’s 70th-minute goal lifted Bayern to victory against a United side that, even with nothing to lose, failed to create chances with just one shot on target.

“The big concern is that (Rasmus) Hojlund didn’t have a chance. They’re not creating anything,” former United midfielder Paul Scholes said on TNT Sports. “It’s been a really poor campaign.”

Hojlund was United’s top scorer in their Champions League campaign with five goals.

“Bottom and rotten, in truth. They’re just not very good,” former Premier League striker Chris Sutton said on BBC Sport.

Ten Hag defended the single shot on target saying: “The game was like this for both sides: less chances.

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“We did quite well, if not to say very well. We had our moments but just didn’t take them.”

Bayern manager Thomas Tuchel, whose team went unbeaten to finish top of Group A with 16 points, was asked if he felt for Ten Hag’s predicament.

“Almost always I feel sympathy for the other coach but we try everything to win matches, but of course I have sympathy, he has a lot of key players injured for a decisive match,” Tuchel said. “It is not an easy time but I am pretty sure he knows what to do next and he does not need my advice or clapping on the shoulders, he is experienced enough to go through it.

“I had not a nice moment last Saturday (a 5-1 league loss to Eintracht Frankfurt) and sometimes you feel pretty lonely as a coach,” he added.

It was only the sixth time in United’s history they have gone out in the group stage, and only the second time they have finished bottom in their group.

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Tuchel said he was surprised by their group-stage performance.

“Yeah this is a huge club and not what you expect,” the manager said. “In the group you expect also Manchester United challenging for the win of the group and a place in the round of 16 but in my experience I can tell you we had a difficult group.

“The matches were tight, the results were narrow so you could see everything was possible until today for Manchester United. In some of the matches games changed in a blink of an eye.”

The schedule does not get any easier for United, who play at league-leading Liverpool on Sunday. United are sixth in the Premier League after 16 games, six points adrift of fourth place. Liverpool top the table on 37 points.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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