Ten Hag aims thinly-veiled dig at past Man Utd managers; races to defence of two players after Omonia scare

Erik ten Hag, September 2022

Erik ten Hag has slightly criticised his Manchester United predecessors by claiming the team hasn’t pressed ‘in years’, while he has also guarded Jadon Sancho and Tyrell Malacia after their performances against Omonia FC.

Manchester United got back to winning ways after the 6-3 derby loss to Manchester City by beating Cypriot side Omonia FC 3-2 in the Europa League last night. However, it was far from a straightforward win as the players gave Ten Hag a scare.

Manchester United went into the break 1-0 down after Omonia had caught them on the break from their own free-kick. Sancho passed the ball back to last man Malacia and he lost it. This allowed Bruno Felipe to break and give it to Karim Ansarifard, who finished brilliantly.

The poor first-half display saw both Sancho and Malacia hauled off at half time, with Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw replacing them.

Rashford’s substitution worked perfectly as he registered two goals and an assist to put United 3-1 up and back in control.

United had a late scare when Omonia scored in the 85th minute to make it 3-2, though the Premier League giants managed to see out the win.

There is not much rest though as United will play Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday evening, in a rare time slot for a Prem fixture.

Ahead of the clash with the Toffees, Ten Hag spoke to the media. He said United remained in Cyprus on Thursday and trained there on Friday as “it is the best in relation to recovery and preparation for the game on Sunday.”

Ten Hag gives latest on Raphael Varane

The manager was then asked to give a fitness update on centre-back Raphael Varane, who is trying to overcome an ankle problem.

“Difficult to say,” Ten Hag admitted (via the Manchester Evening News). ” Varane made progress and I hope he is available but I think it will be close.

“From the other players, Harry Maguire not (fit), then it’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek, both not.”

Attention then turned to United’s out of form players, seemingly Sancho and Malacia. Ten Hag set out what he expects from these players in order for him to ‘back them’.

“[It’s] a balance. I will give players trust, I will back them when they are in worse shape,” Ten Hag said. “When they work hard, when they give their best in training sessions, when they take responsibility on the pitch, I will back them.

“But we are also United and our ambitions are really high, so you have to deliver and every player in the squad has to take that responsibility individually and they have to do it in a team culture. That is the demand from us, from the coaches to the players. Also I expect my players are brave on the pitch.”

The Dutchman then aimed a thinly-veiled dig at the previous United bosses due to the club not having pressed successfully for several seasons.

Boss complains about previous Man Utd tactics

“It’s physical, it’s mental,” Ten Hag said. “Also sustainability, especially. It’s like a routine, a way of life and you have to bring it to every training in your system, as a squad and as an individual player.

“And when you had a lack of it in the last years, it’s not something that you build or progress in a week or a month, now it’s a system that has to be and a demand in nowadays top football.

“And it’s quite clear City is the standard in that. There are more teams. But I think also we can deliver that, we have seen it against Liverpool and we have seen it against Arsenal but now we have to do it on a consistent basis, that is what we have to work for now.

“But it will not come overnight, it will also take more than weeks, it will take months.”

Following the clash with Everton, United will play Omonia for the second time. They host the minnows at Old Trafford on Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, Ten Hag could be at fault after Newcastle reportedly began targeting an experienced Man Utd star ahead of January.