Erik ten Hag is confident his inconsistent but talented Manchester United side can beat Bayern Munich to stay in Europe as they pray for a Champions League miracle.
The Red Devils’ Group A campaign has been punctuated by goals, madness and mistakes, leaving their hopes of reaching the knockout phase hanging by a thread.
United have just four points and sit bottom of the pool heading into the final match against already-qualified Bayern, meaning progress is out of their hands.
Ten Hag’s men need to become the first side to beat the German outfit in a Champions League group game since September 2017 and hope Copenhagen and Galatasaray draw in the other game.
United are guaranteed at least a place in the Europa League if they win on a night that the Dutchman is heading into without thinking about the impact of failing to qualify from the group.
He said: “I don’t know. What I know is I never think in a negative scenario. We think positive, so we know what to do.
“We have to win to stay in Europe, so it’s all about that.
“We will prepare the team with that feeling and with that belief that we are able to do it and I think we have shown in the last weeks when we are on our best then we can do it.”
United limp into this match on the back of Saturday’s awful 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth, which led Ten Hag to admit his team were not good enough to be consistent high performers.
But the Dutchman remains confident his side possesses the quality to beat the best as they look to end Bayern’s competition record 39-match unbeaten group-stage run.
“It’s our team (that gives me hope),” Ten Hag said. “We are not consistent. Clear.
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“But we have also a very good performance and highs, so if we get it when we are in the right spirit, then we are able to do it and we are able to beat any opponent.
“The game against Chelsea (gives me belief), the game against Everton, even the game against Galatasaray.
“So, I know this team can perform really at high levels and it’s not that we did it three months ago. No, we did it last week, so I know we can do it.
“When we have the right mood, we have the right spirit, it starts with the right attitude, if everyone is ready for it, we are able to do it.”
United’s previous two Champions League matches have been on the road – a 4-3 defeat to Copenhagen at a rocking Parken Stadium before receiving their ‘Welcome to Hell’ in Turkey a fortnight ago.
Ten Hag’s men blew a two-goal lead in a frustrating 3-3 draw at hostile Galatasaray and the Red Devils boss stressed the importance of the Old Trafford crowd on Tuesday.
“I think Old Trafford is not a nice place to come for an opponent, and we are aware of it,” Ten Hag said.
“It starts with us but then, of course, you hope that the fans we are together.
“As long as I’m here, I always have the feeling we are absolutely together. There’s a very strong bond between the team and the fans.
“They’re always behind this, even when we have big setbacks. They’re staying behind us, they’re supporting us, so very happy with that.
“But we have to take the responsibility. It starts with us, we have to energise them.”
United are still juggling a number of key injuries as they prepare to host Bayern and travel to rivals Liverpool on Sunday.
Victor Lindelof missed the Bournemouth defeat through injury but trained with the group on Tuesday afternoon, when Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were absent due to illness.
The latter also missed training on Friday due to feeling unwell and only managed a substitute appearance against the Cherries.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 11, 2023
“It’s a condensed programme, so we have a training (to come),” Ten Hag said ahead of training at Carrington.
“So in this moment, I’m not sure about everyone and who is available for tomorrow.
“So, a question mark is, for instance, on Victor Lindelof if he can make it or not.
“We have to wait and to see until tomorrow, then we know.”