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Alex Ferguson tells Erik ten Hag he ‘wants to help’ with Manchester United’s revival

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. Photo: Molly Darlington/Reuters© REUTERS

Ian WhitellTelegraph.co.uk

Alex Ferguson “wants to help” Erik ten Hag revitalise Manchester United, the Dutchman said after disclosing details of a secret dinner date between the pair.

United host Barcelona in the second leg of their Europa League play-off tie tonight, 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,” Ten Hag said. “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 – though Pep Guardiola had his revenge by leading Barca to wins over United in two Champions League finals.

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.

United, the only team in Europe still active on four trophy fronts, could win one as early as Sunday, when they face Newcastle in the League Cup final.

Any suggestion that Ten Hag is not yet receiving the credit some would claim he deserves for his rapid impact is rejected. “It’s not about credit, it’s about trophies,” he said. “We have the opportunity, but the first focus point is the next game and in that we can’t win a trophy this week.

“We have to 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.”

Harry Maguire and Antony are available for the Europa League tie, having missed the weekend win over Leicester, but Anthony Martial’s injury problems persist, with the striker still out. Barcelona also have problems with absentees – Gavi is suspended and Pedri and Ousmane Dembele both injured.

United’s Champions League-winning defender Raphael Varane believes his side must edge past Barcelona to continue their impressive recent progress.

“I think in the last months we have grown a lot. I think we are playing with more confidence and the atmosphere will be electric,” he said.

“We have to manage our emotions, 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.”

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