Erik, this club hasn't been past the quarter-final stage in the Champions League for about 12 years. That's just not right for a club the size of Manchester United, is it?
“It's true, but first you have to be in the Champions League before you can qualify for a semi-final or even more.”
Yeah, but sometimes they haven't even qualified. I mean, 12 years is a long time to get to the latter stages of a tournament like that?
“But it tells a lot about this club, where we are and where I think we are now. We stepped up, but it's still a long way to go.”
Erik, have you spoken to Pep [Guardiola] since he won the title at the weekend?
Will you ever offer him your congratulations, or do you not have that much dialogue with him this season?
“I will do. This is the first moment, so I take the opportunity to congratulate them on winning the title. Also, in the way they are winning the title, I think it's a demonstration of football. Everyone likes the way they play. So attractive, so brilliant. I think the season is still not finished, as our season is still not finished.”
With their title win and these charges hanging over them, do you think that it is a tainted title for Manchester City? Because it might not be seen as legitimate by a lot of people?
“Oh, it's not about me to make a judgement. There's an investigation. So let them do their work and we will find out. But it's not about me in this moment or in any moment to discuss that or to make a judgement.”
Erik, you talk about the journey that United are on. Where Chelsea are in the table, does that show you how difficult it is to get the processes right and to get everything right after a takeover?
“Oh, absolutely. At this moment, the Premier League is the centralisation of good players and of the best managers. Also [it’s about] the money. It's all here in the UK. That makes a great competition but a tough and a hard competition and you have to do the right things. You can have money, but you have to spend it in a smart way and also you need the right strategy behind it, because otherwise money doesn't work.”
From what you've seen here in one year, do you feel that the club has been your club and that they have been following the right processes to go forward, regardless of who the owners are?
“Well, I think we are in a good direction, but also I think we also can learn from the season and we have to evaluate it after the season and make the right conclusions for the future. And that's what we will definitely do after the season.”
I think lots of people probably thought that Chelsea would have been challenging for the top four spots this season, given the season that they've had after their own takeover last summer. Do you have any concerns at all because this club is going through something similar, that new owners coming in doesn't necessarily mean a step forward? Chelsea seem to have gone backwards, from the outside?
“I said that in the previous question. I try to answer that, when there is no strategy behind it, or not the right strategy, money doesn't work.”
Mr Ten Hag, this is the final fixture between two top-six clubs. What have you made of the level of competition in these games against Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle, compared to the rest of the Premier League?
“I think there are many more teams in the Premier League who are really strong. I am talking about Aston Villa, talking about Brighton and talking about Brentford now. I think there are many more teams who are really strong and tough and it's not only those top six clubs.”
On that note, now that Newcastle have reached those top six spaces, you’ve just mentioned Aston Villa... do you think that means competition for the Champions League next season will be even harder?
“It could be, but there is a summer in between, a lot of things can happen. In this moment we know there is a balance in the league, but over the summer things can change.”
When are you looking at recruitment for the summer, do you want players who want to join you in your United project, or do you want players who want to play in the Champions League? What's the distinction between the two?
“I want to have players with the right characters and personalities, who are outstanding and who can contribute on the highest levels. That is what we want and that is what we have to work for. But in this moment, we focus on tomorrow and on Chelsea. That's important and the rest is not so important at this moment.”