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Neville: Villa, Spurs feeling pressure with Man Utd back in CL race

Gary Neville says Aston Villa and Tottenham will be “feeling the pressure” as Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag admitted his side were “back in the race” for the top four.

United narrowed the gap on fifth-placed Tottenham to three points with a 2-1 victory at Luton after Spurs were beaten at home by Wolves on Saturday.

Ten Hag’s improving side have now won four consecutive games to sit five points behind fourth-placed Villa and Sky Sports’ Neville reckons they will relish the chase for Champions League football.

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Following Manchester United’s 2-1 win against Luton, Erik ten Hag says his team are back in the race for a top four finish

“You can feel Ten Hag is more confident in his team and that they’re in a better place,” said Neville. “He’ll fancy hunting down Tottenham and Villa for the top four. They’ll be feeling the pressure.

“I’m not saying Man Utd will get there but there is a bit between their teeth.”

Rasmus Hojlund continued his scoring streak with two goals in the opening seven minutes but United squandered opportunities to move further ahead and Luton rallied.

“United deserved to win,” said Neville “The second-half performance was better and more measured than the first. The first 10 minutes were fantastic but for 30 minutes Luton could have scored two or three. Luton’s final third let them down in the second half but United defended pretty well.

“United were professional in the second half. They lost their discipline in the first half. (Harry) Maguire and Casemiro had to be hooked at half time. They were all over the place at times. That’s what they are, they are inconsistent.”

Rasmus Hojlund celebrates after socring at Kenilworth Road
Image: Rasmus Hojlund celebrates after socring at Kenilworth Road

But United have found some form with wins over Aston Villa, West Ham and Wolves which has got Ten Hag believing.

“We are back in the race and are building momentum,” said the Manchester United boss. “We need to build the pressure on them. Every game is a final to get close.

“It could’ve been an easy game after 10 minutes but we made it a difficult game as we didn’t take the chances. We had big chances with (Alejandro) Garnacho and (Marcus) Rashford and then we dropped too deep. We allowed them back in the game.

“Maybe it was too easy in the first 10 minutes – you see with some players they go a little bit less, you can’t afford to do that against a side like Luton who are on an upward trend. You have to be 100 per cent focused and that’s what we lost after 10 minutes.”

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Rasmus Hojlund reflects on his double at Luton and reveals whether he meant to deflect the ball past Thomas Kaminski for the crucial second goal

Ten Hag revealed he took experienced duo Harry Maguire and Casemiro off at half-time because he couldn’t risk them being sent off.

“I saw the reaction of the referees and I thought the next one [foul] they would go off,” he said. “I didn’t take the risk. We had good replacements in (Scott) McTominay and (Jonny) Evans. It was the right decision as the performance of those two was very good.

The Manchester United manager also back Hojlund to continue his scoring streak.

“We recruited him as he’s a strong character,” added Ten Hag. “Although he’s 21 he can really perform under stress. That’s what you need as a Manchester United striker. He doesn’t get nervous or lose confidence when he’s not scoring.

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After scoring seven goals in six Premier League games, watch every strike from Rasmus Hojlund’s red-hot streak as he begins to shine for Manchester United

“Once you are in a run, you see it, now he’s scoring and he’s in. That’s how he is now. He has a lot of confidence and I’m sure he’ll score more.”

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