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Erik Ten Hag believes Man United aren’t that far behind Man City in terms of quality

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United are set to finish below their rivals for an 11th consecutive season but when asked if the latest defeat was a reminder of the gap between the teams Ten Hag says: ‘No I don’t think so, absolutely not.’

Despite Manchester United’s loss to their cross-town rivals over the weekend, their coach is adamant that they were not outclassed. Picture: Reuters, Lee Smith

Manchester United fell 18 points behind Manchester City following their 3-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, but United manager Erik ten Hag says there is no gulf in class between the cross-town rivals.

Marcus Rashford’s eighth-minute strike gave United the lead but two goals from Phil Foden and a late effort from Erling Haaland sealed the win for Pep Guardiola’s side, who are a point behind leaders Liverpool.

United are set to finish below their rivals for an 11th consecutive season but when asked if the latest defeat was a reminder of the gap between the teams Ten Hag says: “No I don’t think so, absolutely not.

“We have many problems now in injuries and still we had an opportunity. By a very small margin. We could have scored the second goal. You see it [the gap] is not that big.

“When we have everyone on board we can be really competitive and also we showed, for instance, in the FA Cup final against them when it can be really close. But don’t forget this, City is, at the moment, the best team in the world.”

Defeat leaves United 11 points adrift of the top four and six behind fifth-placed Tottenham, who have a game in hand.

Fifth could be enough for a place in next season’s Champions League, but there is little evidence Ten Hag is capable of turning United’s season around.

The Red Devils have a goal difference of -2 and have scored the same number of goals as 18th-placed Luton.

Still Ten Hag says: “It can be a quick turnaround. We have to try to get closer to them.

“Fifth spot can also be a Champions League spot. We have to go for it and win our games.

“I think we can score enough goals to win the football games.”

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