Are United in the title race?

Saturday 14 January 2023 20:00

Many Manchester United fans are asking if the Reds are in the Premier League title race after the brilliant derby comeback against City.

Erik ten Hag's side have moved to within a point of champions City, with both teams having played 18 games. United are at Crystal Palace on Wednesday, while the Blues entertain Tottenham on Thursday.

Our next assignment after the Eagles is also in London, against Arsenal, who have a commanding lead at the summit. The Gunners are five points clear but their game in hand is a tough one - away to neighbours Spurs on Sunday.

With Liverpool losing 3-0 to Brighton & Hove Albion, leaving the Merseysiders 10 points adrift of United, some supporters may be forgiven for feeling the team is well ahead of schedule under the manager and dreaming of success this season.

Ten Hag: I'm really pleased with the team Video

Ten Hag: I'm really pleased with the team

Erik ten Hag provides his immediate reaction to an incredible comeback victory at Old Trafford...

When the question was inevitably put to Ten Hag afterwards, his answers were pragmatic, and possibly realistic, but he did say he will allow fans to dream and reiterated the desire is burning bright to win some form of silverware in 2022/23.

"I think we can talk about titles in January," he said. "We are not even halfway and there is a lot to come, I think, a lot of games but in our game as well, there is a lot to work on. We can achieve something in this season, I'm convinced about that but there is still a long way to go about to restore Manchester United back to where they belong. The project is not only this season.

"But, of course, I want to achieve something this season and approach it game by game.

"I think that's the right conclusion," he said of taking things one match at a time. "It's a step forward and the belief is back. We are in a good direction but there is still a lot to come. You've seen today that City are the best playing team in this league, with Arsenal - they are good as well, and we have to work out of possession, if we want to get a result.

"There has to be really good defending, which is what they did, but they still have the quality split moments you've seen today. One mistake and they score."

In terms of any title pursuit, the Dutchman admitted in his press conference at Old Trafford: "Fans may dream, but we are not. We have to keep our feet on the ground and face our game that we still have lots to improve. It can't happen after half-time that we lose so much control in the game.

"Getting down, it is unnecessary. We must follow the right rules and we must step up from the back like we did in the early moments and learn how we control such moments. This is also top football and the small details have a big impact and we have to keep working on that and improving on that.''

Watch Ten Hag's press conference Video

Watch Ten Hag's press conference

Erik is asked about substitutions, team mentality, the title race and more, in his post-match media briefing...

"I think it's a process," explained the manager. "We are making progress but there is still a long way to go. We are in the right direction and we are happy with this result, it's quite obvious, but also we need to see with our eyes that we invest a lot if we want to be successful.

"We have to improve much more."

Crystal Palace provide the next test, at Selhurst Park, on Wednesday night, before the game with leaders Arsenal on the following Sunday.


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