Erik ten Hag says Manchester United must put themselves in a strong position in April before considering whether a Premier League title challenge is possible this season.
United approach Sunday’s meeting with Leicester City five points adrift of both Manchester City and Arsenal, although the Gunners have a game in hand on both of their rivals.
They have beaten both City and Arsenal at Old Trafford this season, albeit while losing both away fixtures.
After losing the first two matches of the league season, United have since earned more points than any other team, prompting discussion of an unlikely title tilt in Ten Hag’s first season.
But Ten Hag is not yet ready to look so far ahead,
“We don’t think about it so far,” ten Hag said of the Leicester game. “What we have to do is to put ourselves in the right position in April. Our thinking can only be on the next game. We always have to be better than the previous game and think about it game after game, to put that energy and focus in.
“It does mean that we have to win on Sunday and that we have to collect the three points against Leicester. And that demands a lot of energy and demands high standards.”
Leicester have won their last two games, beating Aston Villa 4-2 and Tottenham 4-1 respectively. While the Foxes are not clear of the relegation scrap just yet, Brendan Rodgers is looking up, rather than down.
“That was initially our target, ” Rodgers said when asked if a top-10 finish was possible. “There’s a bit of work to do between now and the end of the season. We have a great energy in the team. We have to make up for a disappointing start. It’s how you finish that’s important. “
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Manchester United – Bruno Fernandes
Marcus Rashford is in supreme form, but Fernandes has also clicked back into gear. The Portugal international created two chances in United’s win over Leeds United last week, as well as having a game-leading four attempts, hitting the target with three of them.
Leicester City – Kelechi Iheanacho
Iheanacho has been involved in five goals in his last two Premier League games for Leicester (two goals, three assists) as many as he had in his previous 27 appearances (three goals, two assists).
KEY OPTA FACTS
– United won the reverse fixture 1-0 against Leicester, ending a run of four Premier League games without a win against the Foxes (D2 L2).
– Leicester have avoided defeat in their last two Premier League away games against United (W1 D1) – they last had a longer league run without defeat at Old Trafford between August 1972 and April 1977 (W1 D3).
– Leicester have conceded first in both of their last two matches. There have been four previous occasions of a side winning three Premier League games in a row despite conceding first each time – Leeds in November 1997, Manchester United in January 2003, Arsenal in March 2012 (four) and Liverpool in May 2022.
– James Maddison has been involved in 21 goals in his last 19 Premier League starts, scoring 13 and assisting eight. However, he has faced United without ever scoring more often than any other opponent in the competition (eight games).
– Rashford has scored in each of his last six Premier League home games; only two United players have scored in more consecutive appearances at Old Trafford in the competition – Wayne Rooney (eight between December 2009-March 2010) and Cristiano Ronaldo (10 between March-November 2008).