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Man Utd's Erik ten Hag vows to fight for Champions League spot amid injury woes

Erik ten Hag has pledged to keep fighting for Champions League qualification but is "realistic" about the difficult task facing injury-hit Manchester United.

After winning the Carabao Cup during a promising first campaign in charge, things have gone downhill this term and the Red Devils' hopes of returning to the continent's top competition are fading.

Thursday's trip to Chelsea is one of nine matches remaining for sixth-placed United, who are 11 points behind Aston Villa in fourth and nine behind Tottenham in what could prove a fifth and final qualification spot.

Saturday's alarming 1-1 draw at Brentford provided the latest blow to their Champions League hopes in a poor season that has seen Ten Hag's men ravaged by injuries.

"I have high standards and I would be disappointed if we didn't qualify," the United manager said. "I know it will be very difficult because we are not in a good position.

"But we want to win every game, that is the standard we have here among each other. We will keep going and keep believing in those standards. That will be the approach in every game.

"We will keep fighting until the end. I know we are not in a good position. We have to catch up.

"Also I know we have had a lot of problems so I am a realistic man also.

"In a competition that is so competitive and the teams are so close in terms of levels with each other then also you need the players to be available."

United have dealt with more than 50 separate injury issues during the campaign, with Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof returning to that list of absentees this week.

Ten Hag says the club "have an idea" why there have been so many issues and that "internally we will deal with it", but refused to say exactly what that entailed.

The Dutchman did, though, reject suggestions that training intensity was an issue and that he should have brought in a fitness coach, pointing to the need for "very robust players" and the impact of a fixture-packed 18 months.

Ten Hag also suggested some national teams do not look after United's players as well as others.

"We have national teams, so five times a year you give the players away and you don't have any impact," he said.

"It's not completely true but some national teams we have very good connections and we manage the programmes but there are also others that they do what they want.

"You don't have anything in hand on what they are doing there."

The Dutchman's future is under the spotlight after Ineos took control of football operations at United, who need to learn from the mistakes made at free-spending Chelsea since their Todd Boehly-led takeover.

"I think you need to follow the process," Ten Hag said. "As I say, we are in a good trend line. There are good young players coming through, they are developing very well in their progress.

"We are in a good way, we are in a good direction and now we have to make the next steps and don't interrupt this process."

Mason Mount is in line for his first return to Chelsea since making the summer switch to Old Trafford, fresh from scoring his maiden goal for the club after an injury-hit season.

"I don't think they wanted to sell him," Ten Hag said. "They wanted to keep him, they offered him even a new contract many times. But he wants to make this step.

"We were and we are very pleased he is a Man United player because he has great abilities and I'm sure he will contribute and become a big player for Man United."

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