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Manchester United start a run of three Premier League games in six days at St James’ Park Sunday with Champions League places up for grabs.

Ten Hag’s men comfortably won the Carabao Cup final 2-0 against Newcastle at Wembley in February and the Manchester United manager is certain that sustained success is down to more than going to the chequebook.

‘Money is one thing but another is strategy,’ he said. ‘When I was at Ajax. we had a low budget in comparison to many clubs in the Champions League and still won the group, went to the semi-final and were close to the final. So it’s possible to beat teams with higher budgets.

‘We are going in the direction. I think we are building a base this season but have to progress. We are setting higher demands and standards for our players every time.’

Newcastle have spent £300million on the likes of Alexander Isak, Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier, Nick Pope and Sven Botman since the start of last year with the promise of more to come.

It makes finishing in the top four more competitive than ever even for the likes of Manchester United who have burned through cash themselves – including an £89million loss on Paul Pogba – before spending more wisely on the likes of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen at the start of this season.

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