Erik ten Hag reveals details of Sir Alex Ferguson dinner
Sir Alex Ferguson “wants to help” Erik ten Hag in his bid to revitalise Manchester United after revealing the details of the secret dinner date between the pair.
United face Barcelona in the second leg of their Europa League play-off tie, having pulled off a creditable 2-2 draw in last week’s first leg.
In the build-up to the game, Ten Hag, who appears the most likely candidate yet to restore United to the glory days of Ferguson’s reign, had a meeting with his predecessor.
And 10 years on from Ferguson’s retirement, the Dutchman has revealed how helpful the 81-year-old has been in offering his assistance.
“It’s massive,” said Ten Hag. “I always enjoy speaking with people who have a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience.
“He wants to share it, he wants to help and support. He feels Manchester United is his club and he feels so committed.
“He wants us to do well. It was a great night and I look forward to the next night with him!”
Ferguson famously plotted historic United victories in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final and a Champions League semi-final against the Catalan giants – although Pep Guardiola had his club’s revenge by leading Barca to wins over him in two Champions League Finals.
But the involvement of the Old Trafford elder statesman is another indication of the mood of co-operation and team spirit that Ten Hag has helped create in barely six months in charge.
The only team in Europe still active on four trophy fronts, United can actually win one as early as this Sunday, when they face Newcastle in the Carabao Cup Final.
But any suggestion that Ten Hag is not yet receiving the credit some would claim he deserves for his quick impact is rejected by the United manager.
“It’s not about credit, it’s about trophies,” said Ten Hag. “We have the opportunity, but the first focus point is the next game and in that [Europa] League we can’t win a trophy this week.
“We have to go from game and game, keep the same mindset every game and every day give a better version of ourselves.
“When you face a big team like Barcelona you have to play your best or you don’t have a chance. We have to give the best performance of the season, we believe in it, we’re looking forward to it, so we have to give a lot of energy.”
Harry Maguire and Antony are available for the Europa League tie, having missed the weekend win over Leicester, but Anthony Martial’s ongoing injury problems persist, with the striker still out.
Barcelona have problems with absentees themselves – with Gavi suspended and Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé both out injured.
United’s Champions League-winning defender Raphaël Varane believes his side must edge past Barca to continue their impressive recent strides under Ten Hag.
“I think in the last months we grow a lot, I think we are playing with more confidence and tomorrow the atmosphere will be electric,” said Varane.
“We have to manage our emotions are stay calm and believe. We improved a lot already as a team and the next stage is to beat teams like Barcelona. It is a great challenge for us and a great opportunity.”