Manchester United host Chelsea as they eye Champions League spot

Manchester United's Scott McTominay celebartes after scoring in a past match.[AP]

Erik ten Hag is on the brink of securing a return to the Champions League in his first year in charge of Manchester United.

Manchester United hosts Chelsea and Erik ten Hag’s team needs one point to secure a return to the Champions League. If mid-table Chelsea pulls off the upset, United gets another chance in its season finale when Fulham visits Old Trafford on Sunday.

United has been through turbulence of its own since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Having been a Champions League mainstay under Ferguson, the club has repeatedly failed to qualify for it over the past decade.

A return to the Champions League was widely regarded as the minimum requirement in Ten Hag’s first year.

He can secure that if his team picks up one point from its final two games, both at home, against Chelsea and then Fulham on Sunday.

Meanwhile, by the time Ten Hag second season gets underway, the Premier League club could have new owners and an influx of money to support his mission to restore it to its former glories.

Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe are both bidding to buy out United owners the Glazer family, with fans hoping that will bring newfound wealth to sign some of the world’s best players.

United’s opponent on Thursday, however, stands as proof that spending power doesn’t automatically bring success.

“You have to do the right things,” Ten Hag said ahead of the game against Chelsea at Old Trafford. “You can have money, but you have to do it and spend it in a smart way and you need to have a strategy behind it. Otherwise the money doesn’t work.”

It certainly hasn’t worked out for Chelsea in its first year under new owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital. A shambolic season has left the 2021 European champion in the bottom half of the table despite spending around $630 million on new signings.

Two managers have also departed in Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter. Mauricio Pochettino is expected to be appointed its next full-time coach.

 “It’s hard in the modern world because everything’s very reactionary,” interim manager Frank Lampard said Wednesday. “If you want to go in a certain direction and you don’t get any joy for a while, people react to that. For Chelsea it has to be a longer picture than that to get us a bit more of a process. People have to stick with that along the way.”

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