‘It is vital’: Manchester United told importance of top-four finish after Brighton blow

Erik ten Hag said it is “vital” Manchester United qualify for the Champions League and will do everything in their power to get a top-four finish.

Defeat at Brighton on Thursday put United at greater risk of being condemned to a second consecutive season in the Europa League and Liverpool could close the gap on Ten Hag’s team to just one point before they face West Ham on Sunday.

United need a further 11 points from their last five games to be mathematically certain of a top-four finish and Ten Hag feels it is imperative they are playing in the premier European competition next season.

“We need to be there in the Champions League,” he said. “We want to be there because we want to challenge the best teams in the world so we do everything in our power to get that done.

“I think it is always vital that we have to be in the Champions League. It is a battle because many teams and clubs in the Premier League are competing for it and they have the power to fight for that as well. We want to be there and will do everything to get there.”

Ten Hag said he is not concerned by the loss to Brighton, highlighting United’s return of 13 points from their previous five league matches and conscious that they do not need to rely on results from any other clubs.

He added: “We had a quite good run, four wins and a draw from the last five. We have everything in our hands.”

Ten Hag said Antony had to control his passion after the winger risked a red card against Albion with a hack at the eventual match-winner Alexis Mac Allister.

The Dutchman said the £86m signing has to keep his drive, but to make sure it does not spill over.

“His passion is a strength,” he explained. “Of course until a certain level you have to control it. You need passion and desire to win your games and win battles in the game. It is very strong with him and he is very ambitious. Don’t go over the top, stay focused on your game and what the game needs and if he does that, he is a great player.”