By Eleanor Crooks, PA
Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag was keeping his focus on trying to progress in another cup competition as takeover talk ramped up at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag met Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS delegation on Friday, with representatives of rival bidder Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani having visited the club on Thursday.
But Ten Hag stressed his responsibilities lie with matters on the pitch and, having secured progress through to a Europa League quarter-final against Sevilla on Thursday night, United now have Sunday’s FA Cup last-eight clash with Fulham in their sights.
United have already won the Carabao Cup and Ten Hag wants that experience to drive his players on in the chase for another trophy.
“Of course, it is huge motivation,” he said. “We all really enjoyed Wembley, we all really enjoyed winning a trophy and it has to be the fuel for the next one, get pushed by that idea, and that has to bring extra energy to beat Fulham.
“We have to after Sunday set conclusions but we are now in three leagues competing and we want to stay in those, so Sunday is a massive game for us.”
Marcus Rashford again stole the headlines on Thursday with the winner in the second leg against Real Betis taking his tally for the season to 30 goals for club and country.
Nineteen of those have come since the World Cup and Ten Hag said: “He progressed during the season.
“He was also not in the best shape when he started the season but the way of playing gives him a base and then he brings his skills in and his attitude and mentality, and that is bringing him a lot of progress and that brings the team a lot of joy and gives Marcus a lot of goals and us a lot of wins.”
Rashford this week praised the impact of former United forward Benni McCarthy, who was brought in by Ten Hag last summer to work with the club’s strikers.
“I knew his skills,” added the Dutchman of Rashford. “You also bring staff around who can make him better, who can make progress and who he gets motivated from.
“I thought we needed one in the staff who is specifically responsible for strikers. Benni is doing a good job but don’t forget others in the staff because it is about teamwork. I think the staff is in a good balance.
“All have their specific jobs in our staff and I think we co-operate really good together and there is a good vibe and also they challenge each other. Therefore I think it is the total package and it is not about one person.”
ℹ️ The boss has confirmed he has two doubts for Sunday’s #FACup tie.#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 17, 2023
One player who will not be available on Sunday is Casemiro, who begins a four-match suspension following his red card against Southampton last weekend.
The Brazilian had only just returned from a three-match ban after a previous sending-off and will be missed in United’s midfield.
Ten Hag said: “We had many more games without Casemiro. We did really well without Casemiro against Arsenal, the two against Leeds and also at the start of the season. But I want to have Casemiro available because he has a huge impact on our game.”
Fulham have had a brilliant first season back in the Premier League, with midfielder Andreas Pereira playing a key role following his summer move from Old Trafford.
He admitted this week that he did not talk to Ten Hag prior to leaving because he did not want his former boss to sway him.
“He is a good player and I know already him a long time, I had him in the youth of PSV before he transferred to Manchester United and I am really happy for him that he is progressing that good and I think it was the right step for him because he has to play on a regular basis,” said the Dutchman.
“He didn’t do that over several years at Manchester United and there comes a point you have to switch and make maybe a step back to progress in the future.
“I think he is doing a good job, that’s quite obvious, as the whole of Fulham is playing in a good way.”