David De Gea’s slip loosened Manchester United’s grip on the final Champions League place as they were beaten 1-0 at West Ham.

De Gea let Said Benrahma’s hopeful shot from 20 yards slip over his glove to condemn Erik Ten Hag’s side to back-to-back defeats.

They now lie just one point ahead of a rapidly advancing Liverpool, albeit with a game in hand.

But an eighth defeat on the road this season could prove as costly for the visitors as it was priceless for West Ham, who climbed seven points above the relegation zone and are surely now safe.

De Gea’s evening began inauspiciously when his poor clearance flew to the feet of Declan Rice, whose run into the area was only curtailed by a last-ditch tackle from Wout Weghorst.

Marcus Rashford curled over for the visitors while Bruno Fernandes and Antony fizzed low shots narrowly wide.

Christian Eriksen’s effort also floated too high before Rashford cut inside Thilo Kehrer and crashed his shot against the outside of the near post.

The goal arrived in the 29th minute and it is not one De Gea will want to see again.

Benrahma had few options as he drove forward with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw for company.

The Algerian tried his luck from 20 yards but his shot lacked any real menace and De Gea should have made a routine save.

But the ball seemed to spin away from the Spaniard as he attempted to push it away, and instead it rolled almost apologetically into the net.

Ten Hag’s men tried to hit straight back and Antony’s shot flicked the heel of Nayef Aguerd before clipping the far post.

But the visitors had a lucky escape in first-half stoppage time when Benrahma broke through again.

De Gea saved the winger’s initial shot and his attempt to turn the rebound back into the box clearly hit the hand of Lindelof.

If anything the Swedish defender got a better hand to it than his goalkeeper did for the goal, but the penalty appeals were waved away with the VAR apparently seeing nothing untoward.

United got away with another after the break when De Gea went down as he was challenged by Michail Antonio, the West Ham striker hooking the ball in only to be pulled up for a foul.

Weghorst had United’s first shot on target as the hour mark approached, a tame effort from the edge of the box which was straight at Lukasz Fabianski.

But West Ham, eager to put their relegation worries to bed with a Europa League Conference semi-final to look forward to, sensed something special and Tomas Soucek’s volley hit a post before the Czech midfielder’s header was ruled out for offside.

Fabianski made late saves from Rashford and Anthony Martial but Ten Hag’s side offered little in their 57th match of a gruelling season which, along with Liverpool, might just be catching up with them.

Manchester United loanee Shola Shoretire was praised by Bolton manager Ian Evatt after his first senior goal ensured the Trotters warmed up for the Sky Bet League One play-offs on a high.

The 19-year-old opened his senior goalscoring account to put Bolton on course for a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium and ensured they will face Barnsley in their play-off semi-final in confident mood.

Evatt said: “I think that Shola is a hugely talented player and while I’m delighted that he’s now got off the mark with us, I’m certain that there’s lots more to come.

“He’s had a bit of a stop-start of things since he came to Bolton but scoring his first senior goal for us will be a great boost for him.

“This is his first loan away from United and his first sustained taste of senior football and as a young player you’re always going to have highs and lows.

“He started off great with us after arriving on loan in January and then he’s had a dip but the key thing is that he has kept his head down and worked hard and he can have an impact in the play-offs.”

Shoretire put Bolton in command with a tap-in midway through the first half and although Luca Hoole equalised soon after, Bolton’s superiority told after the break.

After Shoretire limped off with cramp, Southampton loanee Daniel Nlundulu restored Bolton’s advantage with a 20-yard drive before Aaron Morley struck with a delightful side-footed effort from outside the box.

Rovers substitute John Marquis slotted home from close range late on to set up a tense finale that saw Scott Sinclair’s stoppage-time strike hit the crossbar but Bolton held firm, much to Evatt’s delight.

“The squad is in a good place, the players have lots of confidence and I have a massive amount of belief in them,” Evatt added.

“We have to prove what we can do in the play-offs but now I feel we’re coming to the boil at just the right time.

“We have the hunger and determination to attack the play-offs and we’ve been working tirelessly behind the scenes, so we’ll be ready.

“But now isn’t the time for pats on the back, it’s about getting our heads down and working hard because we can do it in the play-offs if we give it our best shot.”

After taking part in a post-match lap of honour with his players and staff, Rovers boss Joey Barton was quick to look forward to next season.

“I’ll be aiming to build a squad that is capable of challenging for a place in the Championship because that’s what the fans deserve,” Barton said.

“The support we’ve received from the Gasheads has been sensational but special mention must go to my players who have worked ever so hard all season.

“I know the enormous sacrifices that they have made this season to help establish ourselves in League One.”

Alexis Mac Allister believes Brighton are proving they have the quality to reach Europe after his nerveless penalty secured an “unforgettable” 1-0 win over Manchester United.

The Seagulls soared to sixth spot in the Premier League table, above Tottenham and Aston Villa, thanks to Mac Allister thumping home with virtually the last kick of Thursday’s pulsating contest.

Roberto De Zerbi’s free-flowing side have two games in hand on Spurs and Villa, as well as fifth-placed Liverpool, who sit just four points above them.

Argentina midfielder Mac Allister says Albion must focus on their own situation and results as they bid to cap a memorable campaign by achieving continental qualification.

“We know that it’s the end of the season and these three points are very important,” he told Brighton’s club website.

“The way we are playing is very important because we feel very good. We will do our best to finish as high as we can.

“We have to think about ourselves and not look at the other teams. If we play the way we play, we will have big chances to fight for a European spot and that has to be our aim.”

World Cup winner Mac Allister kept his composure to fire into the top-left corner from 12 yards nine minutes into added time after Luke Shaw’s inexplicable handball was penalised following VAR intervention.

The 24-year-old’s 11th club goal of the season prompted more jubilant scenes inside the Amex Stadium on the back of Saturday’s record-breaking 6-0 hammering of Wolves.

“It was so special,” he said. “For the team and the fans, it was an amazing win and something unforgettable.”

Brighton’s last-gasp success partially avenged their painful FA Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat to United 11 days earlier.

The Seagulls also broke the club-record top-flight points tally by moving on to 55 – three more than they managed in the the 42-game 1981-82 season – with six games still to go.

Goalkeeper Jason Steele, who made smart saves to deny Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes, admits Albion’s recent Wembley agony gave them additional incentive.

“It wasn’t about revenge or anything like that,” he said. “Did we have a little bit extra motivation? Yeah, probably.

“But I don’t think it spilled over into anything other than that and we deserved to win.

“It was a big night for us. Two good teams were going toe to toe, really enjoyable to play in and the last-minute winner, you can’t beat that.”

Brighton complete a trio of consecutive home games against relegation-threatened Everton on Monday evening.

The fitness of Pascal Gross and Evan Ferguson will be assessed ahead of that match but head coach De Zerbi does not expect to have Joel Veltman back from injury.

Manchester United’s wretched record away to the Premier League’s best continued with Thursday’s late loss to Brighton.

The Red Devils have failed to win any of their away games against the current top nine teams, drawing one and losing the other eight.

Here, the PA news agency looks at that poor record as Erik ten Hag’s first season in charge edges towards a conclusion.

Brentford (currently 9th) 4 Manchester United 0 – August 13, 2022

Ten Hag’s first away match in charge ended in a 4-0 capitulation, with a mixture of catastrophic defensive ineptitude and Brentford opportunism meaning the Red Devils were four down at half-time. David De Gea gifted the first two to Josh Dasilva and Mathias Jensen, Ben Mee helped himself to a third and Bryan Mbeumo hit a slick fourth on a chastening afternoon for the visitors.

Manchester City (currently 1st) 6 Manchester United 3 – October 2, 2022

The phenomenal Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both scored hat-tricks in a Manchester derby humbling that evoked memories of City’s famous 6-1 win at Old Trafford in 2011. Foden began the rout after just eight minutes and United were a distinct second best thereafter, although Antony pulled one back and Anthony Martial also claimed two consolation efforts.

Aston Villa (currently 8th) 3 Manchester United 1 – November 6, 2022

United fell to their first Premier League loss at Villa Park since 1995 in what proved to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final match at the club. The Portuguese wore the armband in Birmingham, where the hosts ended a 9,941-day wait to beat the Red Devils in Unai Emery’s first match in charge. Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne scored inside the opening 11 minutes, with Jacob Ramsey atoning for deflecting in a Luke Shaw strike by scoring a fine effort just after half-time.

Arsenal (currently 2nd) 3 Manchester United 2 – January 22, 2023

Eddie Nketiah flicked home a late winner as title-chasing Arsenal won a five-goal thriller in the capital. In-form Marcus Rashford scored a stunning opener that was cancelled out by Nketiah before Bukayo Saka’s own top-drawer finish had Arsenal ahead. Lisandro Martinez, an Arsenal target last summer, levelled but Nketiah would turn home a wayward Martin Odegaard shot to secure a memorable win.

Liverpool (currently 5th) 7 Manchester United 0 – March 5, 2023

Ten Hag fumed at his side’s “unprofessional” display in a loss that equalled United’s record competitive defeat – against Blackburn in 1926, Aston Villa in 1930 and Wolves in 1931. Just a week on from lifting the Carabao Cup, the Old Trafford giants were brought back down to earth with a bump at Anfield. Cody Gakpo’s smart strike had Liverpool ahead at the break and nobody could have foreseen the way United would unravel. Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah ended the day with two goals apiece, with substitute Roberto Firmino completing a win that will live long in the memory of both clubs.

Newcastle (currently 3rd) 2 Manchester United 0 – April 2, 2023

The loss to Liverpool was called “unprofessional” and United defender Luke Shaw labelled the defeat at St James’ Park “unacceptable”. Boss Ten Hag agreed with the left-back’s assessment that the Magpies were “more determined, more passionate” and had “more desire” as Joe Willock and substitute Callum Wilson secured the hosts a win that was more one-sided than the scoreline suggested.

Tottenham (currently 7th) 2 Manchester United 2 – April 27, 2023

United last week blew a two-goal lead against a Spurs side playing their first match since replacing interim Cristian Stellini with another caretaker boss in the wake of their 6-1 trouncing at Newcastle. First-half efforts by Jadon Sancho and Rashford put United in cruise control, only for Ryan Mason’s half-time message to do the trick. Pedro Porro reduced the deficit and Son Heung-min levelled.

Brighton (currently 6th) 1 Manchester United 0 – May 4, 2023

Ten Hag bemoaned Thursday’s “annoying” last-gasp loss at Brighton, where Alexis Mac Allister slammed home from the penalty spot in the ninth minute of added time after Shaw’s inexplicable handball was punished following VAR intervention. Ten Hag conceded his side contributed to their own downfall during a pulsating south-coast clash.

Erik ten Hag bemoaned an “annoying” last-gasp loss at Brighton as Manchester United’s Champions League hopes suffered a setback.

Seagulls midfielder Alexis Mac Allister slammed home from the penalty spot in the ninth minute of added time after Luke Shaw’s inexplicable handball was punished following VAR intervention.

The dramatic 1-0 defeat at the Amex Stadium dented United’s top-four aspirations, leaving them only four points above fifth-placed Liverpool, albeit with a game in hand.

Ten Hag conceded his side contributed to their own downfall during a pulsating south-coast clash.

The Dutchman felt an action-packed opening in which Antony wasted a golden chance before goalkeeper David De Gea was flattened when denying Albion winger Kaoru Mitoma with his face following a poor pass from Victor Lindelof encapsulated the frustration.

“Every defeat is a disappointment but in the end when you lose in the last second, that is of course annoying,” said United boss Ten Hag.

“And I think the first minute sums everything up. We create a good chance, we were not clinical enough, then in the attack after we concede a big chance by a giveaway from us, the ball on the head for David.

“And in the end, we also gave away the goal and that’s annoying because if you can’t win because you don’t finish your opportunities then don’t lose.”

With plenty at stake in the battle for continental qualification, rival players clashed in a heated second half after Antony’s crude challenge on Mac Allister sparked a mass brawl.

The two sides were each shown four yellow cards across the course of a gripping encounter.

Ten Hag was unhappy with some of Brighton’s challenges and also bemoaned a free-kick award in the build-up to referee Andre Marriner pointing to the spot after viewing Shaw’s handball on the pitch-side monitor.

“The annoying thing is that the free-kick before (the corner) is never a free-kick and I have seen really bad tackles today, sometimes without whistles as well,” he said.

“Every attack you make, they kick you and then from a fair block it’s a free-kick and it’s a corner and then it’s a disappointing handball in the dying seconds and you can’t react any more.

“It’s not about me to give a judgement about the ref. We lost this game, we make a mistake in the end and we didn’t take our chances but of course there are some disappointments.”

Brighton’s win partially avenged the spot-kick heartache they suffered at the hands of their opponents in the FA Cup semi-finals just 11 days ago and completed a league double over United.

Victory for Roberto De Zerbi’s men lifted them to sixth in the table, above Tottenham and Aston Villa, and four points behind Jurgen Klopp’s fifth-placed Reds with two additional games remaining.

Head coach De Zerbi, who overcame illness to lead the Seagulls to success, said: “We deserved to win today, we deserved to win in the semi-final. If you play well, it can happen one time you lose but in the end you win, my experience in football says it’s like this.

“I feel better with the victory. I’m wasted!”

Alexis Mac Allister fired Brighton to sixth in the Premier League by converting a dramatic added-time penalty to dent Manchester United’s Champions League hopes.

The Argentina World Cup winner emphatically dispatched the ball into the top left corner nine minutes beyond the regulatory 90 after Luke Shaw was penalised for handball following VAR intervention.

Albion’s 1-0 win from a pulsating Amex Stadium contest moves them above Tottenham and Aston Villa, while leaving United looking over their shoulders at fifth-placed Liverpool.

The Seagulls sit just four points behind Jurgen Klopp’s Reds with two games in hand thanks to the stunning late twist.

Amad Diallo will return to Manchester United this summer on a mission to catch the eye of manager Erik ten Hag.

The 20-year-old midfielder, a £19million signing from Atalanta in January 2021, has been one of the stars of Sunderland’s Sky Bet Championship campaign having endured a less than successful spell at Rangers during the second half of last season.

United’s loan manager Les Parry was on Wearside on Wednesday and Black Cats head coach Tony Mowbray, who admitted he wished the loan arrangement had been for two years, now expects the Ivory Coast international to get a chance to prove himself in pre-season.

Mowbray said: “I think Manchester United are happy, but I think the next step is for them to take him on pre-season to America. That’s what I think is going to happen. Then they’ll see how he gets on.

“They know what they’ve got, they bought him, but I think when the new manager came in, it was right on the cusp of whether they were going to keep him or not. He liked some of the stuff, but then he maybe wasn’t sure about other things.

“I’m sure he’s been watching Amad’s clips from games, just as I watch all of our players who are out on loan, and seeing what he can do.

“But he’ll need to see him on a daily basis and feel what he brings. I’m sure everyone will have an opinion on whether he’s good enough or not good enough for Manchester United, but the reality is that the manager needs to watch him, see and feel him in a game, and see what he brings.”

Amad has made 39 appearances for Sunderland and scored 12 goals heading into Monday’s trip to Preston, in which victory could yet propel the club into the play-offs at the end of their first campaign back in the second tier.

Harry Kane may struggle to resist the temptation to leave Tottenham in search of major honours at the end of the season, believes former Spurs striker Frederic Kanoute.

While Kane has hit 25 Premier League goals during another fine individual campaign, his quest to win a first major trophy never looked likely to end during a frustrating season for Spurs.

Tottenham sit nine points adrift of the top four after Sunday's dramatic 4-3 defeat at Liverpool, and chairman Daniel Levy has already sacked two head coaches in the form of Antonio Conte and his interim replacement Cristian Stellini.

With Kane about to enter the final 12 months of his contract, reports have suggested he could be targeted by Manchester United in the upcoming transfer window, while Paris Saint-Germain are also said to hold an interest in the 29-year-old.

Kane wanted to leave Tottenham for Manchester City in 2021, and Kanoute believes the England captain could be enticed by the prospect of an exit this time around.

Speaking to Stats Perform at LaLiga x Bloomsbury Football League event, Kanoute said: "I can't speak on his behalf but, obviously, the fans would be really, really disappointed if he leaves the club because he's been fantastic.

"At the same time, I think they understand as well that it could be a good opportunity, a huge opportunity for him to win trophies.

"I think he will be a little bit conflicted in the next choice he is going to have to make."

Tottenham are yet to name Conte's permanent successor, with Ryan Mason taking the reins as acting head coach following Stellini's exit.

With the likes of Julian Nagelsmann, Xabi Alonso and Vincent Kompany linked with the role, Kanoute has urged Spurs to look to the future with their next appointment.

"I wish all the best for Mason and I hope he's going to do a great job, but we all think it's going to be temporary," he said.

"Obviously the next appointment is going to be super important as I think it should be a long-term appointment, but as we know nowadays in football, there's not much patience. 

"I just hope the new coach will start with a few wins that will bring some positive momentum for the club.

"It's obvious that they're missing silverware and that's all the Tottenham fans are hoping that Tottenham can finally win a trophy, but I think there's a kind of unsettlement in the team. 

"If you want a trophy, you have to build it up, to have a certain stability with the coach, with the philosophy of what kind of football you want to deliver to the fans.

"I think they're still to reach that stability, so they can finally thrive in their football."

Erik ten Hag is in the dark over Manchester United’s summer spending power as the takeover saga rumbles on.

The Old Trafford giants announced in November that the board was exploring strategic alternatives to enhance the club’s growth, with a full sale one option being considered.

Friday was the third, and what is expected to be final, deadline for parties to make offers to buy the club, with Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe both submitting bids.

Now the the Glazer family must decide how they want to proceed – a process that threatens to damage the progress made during Ten Hag’s first season in charge.

United are on course for a top-four finish and have the chance to add the FA Cup to the Carabao Cup, but the financial backing for improvements is unclear even to the manager.

Asked if he has been told he has the funds to do what he wants to this summer irrespective of how the takeover process pans out, Ten Hag said: “No, I don’t have. I don’t have influence on that, I don’t have… also I don’t know.

“The only thing what I know is that Man United is one of the biggest clubs and I think it’s among maybe (the) two biggest clubs in the world from a fanbase perspective.

“So, I think this club has to compete for the highest in the world, so Champions League, Premier League.

“But in football you need funds to construct squads because in the end of the day the level from your players makes if you are successful or not.”

Ten Hag says “everyone knows you need funds to construct a squad” and that “high level players cost a lot of money” in elite football.

“I, we see this as a project,” the United boss said. “In a project also it belongs that you are in windows, that you strengthen your squad needs or to make refreshments, so that you get more balance, definitely, and you bring young players in.

“But I think we already have shown and proved that we can beat the best teams in the world, so, yeah, I think we can compete in the Champions League.

“But at the end of the day we want to be in the winter also in the Champions League and we want to compete, and knock them all out, so then we have a way to go.”

United are preparing to take on Brighton in the Premier League on Thursday after beating Aston Villa 1-0 to a backdrop of protests against the Glazers on Sunday.

Ten Hag was seen after the match at Old Trafford picking up a green and gold scarf as he headed down the tunnel game, holding it up before throwing it back to fans.

When asked if it was an act of solidarity with the fans, the United boss said: “No, it was just polite.

“But I know what’s going around, what the symbol of it is, but this matter was just polite.”

Ten Hag, understandably, refrained from publicly criticising his employers at this stage of the season but his desire for clarity on the club’s future is palpable.

Asked how important it is to get the takeover process resolved as soon as possible, Ten Hag said: “Yeah, I think it’s clear what I want but it’s not up to me.

“It’s about others in this club, finally there are the owners and they make the decisions, so it’s not up to me.

“So, I do everything I can and I influence the processes I’m in charge of.”

Kaoru Mitoma hopes to cap a fine breakthrough season by helping Brighton make history as he sets his sights on gaining revenge against Manchester United.

The high-flying Seagulls surpassed their Premier League points record by moving on to 52 with Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing of Wolves, which reignited the club’s quest to reach Europe.

Fourth-placed United travel to the south coast just 11 days after inflicting an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat on Albion in the FA Cup semi-final.

Japan winger Mitoma only made his Brighton debut in August but has rapidly enhanced his reputation this term with seven goals and four assists during a string of standout performances.

The 25-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise, is determined to further aid the Seagulls’ push to secure continental qualification for the first time.

“Right now it’s important for the team to finish the season as high up the table as possible and aim for a Champions League or Europa League spot,” he said.

“If we can reach a higher standard playing this brand of football, I think we will be able to bring the fans even more joy.

“I want to make them happy and, in order to do so, we want to make history.”

Brighton edged the recent Wembley meeting with Erik ten Hag’s men but were unable to find a breakthrough before Solly March’s miss proved decisive in a painful 7-6 shoot-out loss.

The eighth-placed Seagulls’ chances of catching United and scraping into the Champions League spots are extremely slim as they sit 11 points adrift, albeit with a game in hand.

Yet a top-five finish remains a distinct possibility going into Albion’s final seven fixtures in a hectic last month of the campaign.

Mitoma, who began the hammering of Wolves on the bench after being rested by boss Roberto De Zerbi, is confident Brighton can complete a league double over United following a 2-1 Old Trafford win on the first weekend of the season.

“It was a disappointing result, a frustrating result, but we have already switched our focus to the league,” he said of the semi-final setback.

“It’s very important that we win this game as they are our direct rivals in the league table. This will be a really big game for both teams.

“They are a team who is always fighting for the title, and the quality of each individual is something that sets them apart from other teams.

“But if we can play to our strengths, we will have a chance to win.”

Head coach De Zerbi could be absent from the Amex Stadium touchline for Thursday evening’s game after cancelling his pre-match press conference on Wednesday due to illness.

Mitoma was handed his maiden top-flight start by the Italian in Albion’s 4-1 victory over Chelsea in late October and believes he is progressing well.

“The coach demands a lot from me, so I’m trying my best to meet them,” he said.

“The way he sets up the team and his tactics are helping my performance, as it suits my style very well.

“He is very specific about what he wants from me in training and in games.

“I think my standard on the ball and off the ball is improving step by step, so I feel that I’m developing under his coaching.”

Jimmy Murphy, one of the most important figures in Manchester United’s history, has been immortalised in a statue outside Old Trafford.

Family members, senior club leaders, former players and fan representatives were in attendance on Wednesday as the tribute was unveiled outside the Stretford End.

Murphy was Sir Matt Busby’s right-hand man and his statue is located close to where he used to coach the Busby Babes on a cinder training pitch.

The Welshman, who died in 1989, served as United’s chief coach and then assistant manager between 1945 and 1971.

Murphy was also Wales manager and international duty meant he missed United’s match in Belgrade in 1958 and the tragic return flight.

The Welshman remarkably kept the side going after the Munich air disaster, taking temporary charge until the end of the season with Busby hospitalised.

Murphy even led United to the FA Cup final against Bolton – a match that took place on this day 65 years ago.

Murphy managed Wales at the World Cup finals in Sweden the following month – the national team’s only appearance on the world stage until last year.

Current boss Rob Page was another in attendance at Wednesday’s ceremony, where Murphy’s son – Jim Murphy Jr – and United chief executive Richard Arnold were among the speakers.

Sir Alex Ferguson recorded a video tribute as he was unable to attend.

The statue is deserved recognition for Murphy, who is already commemorated with the naming of a building at Carrington and the club’s young player of the year award.

Erik ten Hag was unable to attend the ceremony due to Thursday’s Premier League match at Brighton but his admiration for Murphy could not have been clearer.

“I think it’s very good that the club gives so much honour and recognition to a main person in the history of Manchester United,” the Dutchman said in the Jimmy Murphy Centre.

“He stands for more symbols – symbol of youth, youth development. He stands for resilience and determination.

“They are the standards for Manchester United. It’s driven by this person after the Munich (air disaster).

“A manager fell away, many players fell away and the club was devastated. They bounced back and this person played a main role, so it is totally deserved he gets honoured for this.

“The club is doing that with the Jimmy Murphy Centre, the Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year and now a statue. It’s fantastic.”

Tyrell Malacia says there is no chance of Manchester United’s focus wavering as the mouth-watering FA Cup final against Manchester City draws closer.

Erik ten Hag has overseen an impressive turnaround in culture and quality at Old Trafford since taking over last summer.

United are pushing for a top-four finish, having already won the Carabao Cup, and June 3 offers another shot at silverware against potentially treble-chasing rivals City.

The all-Manchester FA Cup final may be looming large, but Malacia says it will not distract the squad from their final Premier League push.

“No, I think we have a lot of experienced players who have been in these kind of situations,” the full-back said ahead of Thursday’s trip to Brighton.

“We keep each other like a team and we focus on qualification for the Champions League.

“I think Brighton are a good team, very good football, quality players, so it’s going to be a tough game.

“We have to focus on ourselves now, watch game-to-game and we need to win.”

Brighton will be looking for revenge just 11 days after their FA Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat to United, who have since drawn 2-2 with Tottenham before beating Aston Villa 1-0 on Sunday.

Bruno Fernandes’ strike at Old Trafford ended Villa’s 10-match unbeaten run and strengthened the Red Devils’ grip on a Champions League qualification spot with six matches left to play.

“I think from now until the last game of the season it’s important points, so we have to win every game now,” Malacia said.

“It’s not good that we dropped points (at Tottenham), but (against Villa) we played good and (won) important points.”

As well as picking up three points, United recorded a 15th Premier League clean sheet – no mean feat given Villa’s form and the absence of first-choice centre-backs Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez.

“We have a lot of quality in the team, so if someone drops out we know we have someone there with quality,” Malacia said, who played left-back as Luke Shaw impressed centrally once again.

“Yeah (they are big players missing), but still we are Man United so we have a lot qualities and that’s important.”

On Shaw, the Netherlands international said: “We’re helping each other before the game, before training. We always talk to each other, so it’s good.

“From the beginning when I came here he always talked to me and spoke with me.”

Sunday was Malacia’s 19th Premier League appearance for United and he has played 36 matches in all competitions since joining last July.

The 23-year-old became the first signing of the Ten Hag era after moving from Feyenoord for 15million euros (£12.95m), plus 2m euros (£1.7m) in add-ons.

“I said to myself maybe 20 games this season and I’ve played more than 20,” Malacia said.

“I’m happy I’m here, I’m learning a lot. My first year in the Premier League, I’ve played a lot of games. I’ve learnt a lot of things, so happy to be here.”

Asked if he has felt extra pressure playing for United, he said: “All good. I don’t feel the pressure. For me, it’s OK.

“I’m just happy to be on the pitch and play football. That’s what I want to do and that’s what I dream all of my life, so why should I be pressured?”

Malacia’s delight to be playing at United comes with gratitude to Ten Hag, whose meticulous nature and approach the squad have bought into.

Put to Malacia that the manager seems demanding, he said: “Always, always (with) everyone.

“It’s a good thing because it keeps us sharp and you have to be on your A-game, especially because he said we are a big club so we need to win prizes. Then we have to be on our A-game.

“Everything (he is demanding about). It’s good because you see it work, so it’s always good then.”

Villa have their own demanding manager in impressive Emery, whose side will look to get back to winning way at Wolves on Saturday.

Leander Dendoncker told VillaTV ahead of the trip to his former club: “I don’t think we played a bad game here.

“The next game is an away game as well, which is going to be tough as well.

“We just have to keep going, we have been outstanding in the last few weeks and we just have to keep going.”

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag singled Victor Lindelof out for praise after another impressive display in Sunday's 1-0 win over Aston Villa.

United have been without Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez over the past few weeks, with the latter set to miss the rest of the season.

Losing both in quick succession seemed a huge blow, but Lindelof and Luke Shaw – who has been moved centrally – have generally done well in their stead.

Lindelof enjoyed arguably one of his best games in a United shirt last weekend against Brighton and Hove Albion as they secured passage to the FA Cup final, and although the Red Devils threw away a lead against Tottenham in midweek, the Sweden international was hardly culpable.

Against in-form Villa at Old Trafford on Sunday, Lindelof routinely seemed to be in the right place at the right time, making a team-high four clearances, including a vital one off the goal-line to deny the visitors a late equaliser.

Clearly, Ten Hag has been impressed, with Lindelof earning chances ahead of maligned club captain Harry Maguire.

"He's playing fantastic," Ten Hag said of Lindelof to BBC Match of the Day.

"Really good games in and out of possession. Today, totally defending in control, but then building up as well, good positioning, good decisions, so we are happy with that.

"The games and life are much easier if you get the second goal earlier or get the second goal. We already have seen we have many players, including Lindelof, who are determined to win the game in attack and defence and that is what you need if you want to be successful."

Victory for United ensured that, even if Liverpool beat Tottenham, Ten Hag's men will end the weekend seven points clear of fifth.

United will also have at least one game in hand on each of the three teams directly below them, meaning a top-four spot is all but theirs with six matches left.

Ten Hag is not taking anything for granted but recognises they are in a good position.

"I'm really happy with the points but also with the performance," Ten Hag continued.

"Really good performance against a Villa side who did not lose in 10 games and scored in every game.

"We were in complete control. It could have been 3-1 or 4-1 [to United], so a really good and impressive performance.

"We have seen character today, we were determined, passionate and we had to win, and we played good football.

"We look from game to game and next we have Brighton, so we need to work hard again. We need to show passion again and not worry about the table.

"We are totally in control [in the race for top four], it's all about us and it's in our hands."

Manchester United fans protested against the Glazer family before and during Sunday’s Premier League match against Aston Villa.

Friday was the third, and what is expected to be final, deadline for interested parties to make offers to buy the club.

Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe both submitted offers to the Glazers, who have faced fury from United fans since their leveraged takeover in 2005.

The 1958 – a United fan group that came to prominence last year – has led renewed protests and held another before the home match against Villa.

Leaving from central Manchester, the march continued on to Old Trafford as fans displayed a giant banner reading ‘Full $ale Only’.

Smoke from the flares outside rose through the concourses and filled the air inside Old Trafford as the players warmed up.

The 1958 also called for an 18-minute boycott of the match – “one minute for each year the Glazers have driven our club into the ground”. There were some visible empty seats at kick-off but Old Trafford was largely full.

Chants against the owners were heard from the outset and footage has emerged of manager Erik ten Hag briefly holding a green and gold scarf after Sunday’s 1-0 win.

Asked if background anger could make things harder for his side, the United boss said: “We felt really that the fans were behind us.

“So, we have to focus to be successful because that’s what the fans expect and they can expect.

“They have to rely on us, so we will focus on that.

“I’m sure when we keep performances like we do all season, the fans are behind us and there’s lot of energy and I think a really strong bond between the fans and the players.”

Bruno Fernandes’ strike strengthened Manchester United’s grip on Champions League qualification and ended Aston Villa’s 10-match unbeaten run.

Unai Emery has overseen an incredible turnaround since replacing Steven Gerrard and kicking off his Villa reign with an impressive win against the Red Devils in November.

But Fernandes’ first-half goal sealed United a 1-0 victory amid a backdrop of anti-Glazer protests on Sunday.

United had failed to win their last three Premier League matches against the Birmingham outfit and looked determined to halt that run as they flew out of the blocks at Old Trafford.

Casemiro struck the crossbar before Erik ten Hag’s men deservedly went ahead when Fernandes fought to turn home after Emiliano Martinez pushed away a Marcus Rashford shot.

Villa could not respond as they failed to score in a Premier League match for the first time under Emery, with the impressive Victor Lindelof clearing a late Douglas Luiz attempt off the line.

The match came just two days after Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe submitted their third, and what is expected to be final, offers to buy United.

Other parties are interested in minority investment, and it was reported that Joel and Avram Glazer could remain stakeholders under one deal being proposed by Ratcliffe.

A group of United fans marched to Old Trafford in protest against the Glazers, with a giant banner reading ‘Full $ale Only’.

Protestors’ flares outside the ground also filled the air inside Old Trafford but many did not heed the call for an 18-minute boycott – a minute for each year of the Glazers’ ownership.

Those that stayed outside did not miss any goals despite an impressive United start.

Rashford struck narrowly wide having been slipped through by Marcel Sabitzer, unaware he would be flagged for offside in the build-up.

The 25-year-old soon had another chance as Fernandes smartly played him in to get away a shot that Martinez spread himself well to stop.

The Villa goalkeeper did well there but was twice breathing a sigh of relief soon after.

United failed to punish him after he raced off his line to cut out a ball, then the World Cup winner slipped only for a Fernandes cross to just evade team-mates.

Emery’s side had offered precious little in response but had a superb opportunity around the 20-minute mark.

Ollie Watkins slipped at the far post as Emiliano Buendia set over a tantalising low ball, with Alex Moreno’s fierce follow-up denied by David De Gea.

Watkins’ penalty appeals fell on deaf ears, as did the United spot-kick calls that followed in a spell that saw Casemiro avoid a booking for a challenge on Ramsey.

The midfielder has been below par in recent matches but was superb on Sunday and went agonisingly close to a 28th-minute opener.

Jadon Sancho met a diagonal ball with some fine work on the left, before cutting back for Casemiro to eventually hit a strike that rattled the crossbar.

An entertaining half looked to set to end scoreless, only for Fernandes to make the breakthrough in the 39th minute.

Martinez’s goal-kick was headed away powerfully, putting Rashford through on goal.

The goalkeeper could only push away the forward’s low strike and Fernandes beat Moreno to turn home the loose ball. The skipper celebrated by staring at the away fans that had been goading him.

Fernandes’ strike was given the green light after a VAR check and he saw a stoppage-time attempt at a second comfortably held by Martinez.

Villa showed signs of life in the second half, but Lindelof frustrated Watkins and Ramsey.

Martinez stopped Rashford at the other end and Christian Eriksen dragged wide shortly after seeing a cross coolly cut out by Tyrone Mings.

Rashford went down claiming a penalty against Calum Chambers, while Casemiro went close as play continued without intervention.

Villa nearly capitalised in the 81st minute. Some penalty area pinball ended with Luiz seeing a shot blocked by Sabitzer, before Lindelof rose to head his goalbound follow-up off the line.

There were Villa cheers when United brought on Harry Maguire, but the away side could not find a leveller.

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