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Man. United must prove they ‘belong’ in Champions League despite Hojlund blow

Erik ten Hag said Manchester United “belong” in the Champions League but must prove it after losing in-form striker Rasmus Hojlund to injury.

The Denmark international has suffered a muscle injury that will keep him out for two to three weeks.

It is a cruel blow for a player who has scored seven goals in his past six Premier League appearances after waiting until December 26 for his first goal in the English top flight.

The 21-year-old will miss Fulham’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday and the derby away to Manchester City next weekend, as well as United’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Nottingham Forest on February 28.

“What happened is the risk of playing high intensity (games) and training,” Ten Hag said at his pre-match press conference on Friday. “It’s not a big injury but he has to wait for two to three weeks.”

Hojlund’s absence is the latest setback to United’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, just as they were gaining momentum.

Defenders Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez are expected to miss most of the rest of the season due to hamstring and knee injuries.

Ten Hag’s men have won their past four league games to climb back into contention for a top-four finish.

United trail fourth-placed Aston Villa by five points and are just three adrift of Tottenham in fifth, which could be enough for Champions League qualification.

“We are in the moment where every game is a final for us,” said Ten Hag. “We have to be in the Champions League. We belong there, but then you have to prove it.”

The club’s new co-owner, Jim Ratcliffe, stressed this week the importance of Champions League revenues to allow United to strengthen their squad without breaching financial fair play controls.

Ratcliffe refused to be drawn into offering his full backing that Ten Hag will be in charge next season.

But the former Ajax boss said the two men were completely aligned in their ambitions for the club.

“I have that feeling where we have so many talks, we are very aligned. We have the same ambition, very aligned in the process,” said Ten Hag.

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