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Erik ten Hag has urged Manchester United’s young stars to keep striving to improve.

There has been a sense of nascent optimism at Old Trafford in recent weeks, with new investment and improved performances and results on the pitch.

In their last four games, United have claimed Premier League wins over Wolves and West Ham, a draw with Tottenham and an FA Cup victory over Newport, scoring 13 goals in the process.

At the centre of all those matches has been the young trio of Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo, who have contributed eight of those goals, with 21-year-old Danish striker Hojlund scoring in all the games.

A picture of the youngsters sitting on an advertising hoarding together celebrating Garnacho’s first goal in last Sunday’s 3-0 victory over West Ham summed up the shift in mood.

“Players need time, especially young players like Rasmus and Alejandro,” said United boss Ten Hag.

“They need time but also they need a team, so those two facts were not there in the first part of the season. We had to make a lot of adjustments in our way of playing, so by stages it was difficult to serve the offensive part of the team.

“When that happens, it can go really quickly that players are going to develop and to progress, like we have seen. From the start I was confident they have the potential to do what they are now doing, and now it’s about keeping moving, keeping going, be hungry.

“I think they enjoy to play together. There is adventure. They are a danger. They want to do it together and to pass to each other so that everyone can play to their qualities and everyone can score goals.

“It’s great if they want to do it together because that is the key then we can have a lot of pleasure from this.

“They are young players and the future for Manchester United is quite bright with such talent on board, but you have to develop the talent.

“There is a lot of space for improvement and that is necessary if you want to go to the top levels. This club wants to achieve a lot, to win trophies, is very ambitious, so they then have to step up and bring higher levels and consistency.

Kobbie Mainoo celebrates his winner against Wolves
Kobbie Mainoo celebrates his winner against Wolves (Bradley Collyer/PA).

“Also, against the best opposition they have to express the same threat, and it is about end product.”

Hojlund, 18-year-old Mainoo and 19-year-old Garnacho’s next chance to impress will come on Sunday against Aston Villa.

Unai Emery has earned huge plaudits for the work he has done to elevate Villa into a team challenging for the Champions League and United will almost certainly need to overhaul them if they are to finish in the top four.

Ten Hag is an admirer of Emery, saying: “I think it is very good how he developed this team and it’s very clear how they want to play, in and out of possession.

“I think the players know exactly what they have to do, their jobs and how they have to cooperate with each other. They are really a team, they absolutely have weapons in their team, so we have to play our maximum levels to get the right result.”