Erik ten Hag says restoring the bond between Manchester United's players and fans has been one of his top priorities since taking charge at Old Trafford.

United have won just three trophies since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and the 58 Premier League points they collected last term was their lowest since the competition began in 1992.

A poor performance and 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace in their final match of 2021-22 received much criticism from the away end, a sight that Ten Hag witnessed in the stands after his appointment to replace Ralf Rangnick.

Ten Hag, whose hiring was announced in April before he took over in the close-season, endured a tricky opening to this campaign as United tasted defeat in their opening two matches, including a humiliating 4-0 hammering away at Brentford.

But results have picked up since then and United now sit fifth in the Premier League, while they will take on Catalan giants Barcelona in the Europa League knockout stages after Xavi's side were knocked out of the Champions League.

United's superior displays of late have gone some way to bringing fans and players closer together, something that Ten Hag says was a key aim.

"It was definitely one of our plans, part of our plan that we had," Ten Hag told ESPN ahead of their EFL Cup clash with Aston Villa.

"You need a connection with the fans.

"Manchester United is that big in the world and you have to show commitment and make an engagement. You have to build a togetherness because also, we want to act like that on the pitch as well.

"The team has to understand that and everyone around Manchester United has to understand that the fans are there for us.

"You play football for your fans and we have to be aware of it."

United's improved form took a blow when they were defeated 3-1 by Villa in the Premier League last time out, and Ten Hag demanded a response as they face the Villans once again on Thursday.

"We were not happy with our performance at Villa Park," Ten Hag added.

"We make it quite clear in our analysis that it's not acceptable, it's never acceptable.

"We have to deliver in every game and that is the culture we have to have here. We can't change it [the Premier League defeat to Villa] but we want a reaction. We take every game seriously and we want to win this cup.

"All the games we play, there is only one aim. We have to win. That is the most important thing.

"We have to win every game so we have to put the best players on the pitch. We have planned some changes but we want to play a strong team."