Wan-Bissaka: Ten Hag has taught me a lot

Tuesday 29 August 2023 13:00

Manchester United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been among the club's most impressive performers during the first few weeks of this new season and he caught the eye again during Saturday's comeback win over Nottingham Forest.

Keen observers of the full-back's game, including those fortunate enough to watch him from the front rows of Old Trafford's Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton Stands at Old Trafford, will know the no.29's form is nothing brand new. It's more a continuation of the upward trajectory that began last season when Wan-Bissaka won his place back in the team after missing out on the early months of Erik ten Hag's management.

In the interview below, which was conducted on the club's pre-season tour and first published in the September issue of Inside United, the Reds defender reflects on his development during the last 12 months and reveals how he's looking to kick on again in the current campaign...

Aaron, let's start with Erik. He's been here a year – how's that year been for you? How's it felt inside the club?
“It's been good, especially for myself. I've learned a lot under him. And there's more to come, more improvement to be done. So, yeah, I'm happy. He's helped the team. You can see the team's transition has changed.”
When you say for you personally, what kind of stuff has he helped you with? Is it specifically tactical or is it just conversations about how to see the game?
“I’d say both. On the pitch, just where to be at certain times, be more aggressive going forward, and just how I can help the team.”

Are you the sort of player that wants a manager who talks to them a lot and gives them lots of guidance, or do you prefer to sort of get what you need and then just be left to play your game?
“I think before, it was just being left to play the game. But since I've been under him, the manager has taught me a lot. And you just want to improve more and keep learning more, especially from someone like him. So I've enjoyed that.”

The right-back position was an interesting one last year because at one point it seemed that Diogo was finding his absolute best form and you were injured, and then the roles seemed to reverse and Diogo became injured and you were finding your best form. Does it help having each other, do you work together when you train, do you talk about the role? Or is it just a case of having someone there who's putting that pressure on?
“Yeah, I think it helps a lot when you have someone competing for the same position as you. It pushes you more. We both want to play and we'll push and fight each other to get there. And that will help in the long run.”
Is that how you want to see everybody in the squad, fighting for their positions, and nobody feeling totally comfortable?
“Yeah, definitely. I think it helps you as a player to just not take your foot off the gas and to give it 100 per cent.”
We were talking about the year since Erik took charge. Within that year you picked up your first trophy as a Manchester United player – what was that like?
“That's a good feeling. That's a feeling that I've been waiting for. And to experience it, it just makes you hungry for more. So that's what I'm excited to be doing.”

Is that one of those games that when you when you look back at different points in your career, you’ll now always think of?
“Definitely, yeah. It just makes you want to be involved in a lot of competitions and to be able to lift those trophies.”
It seems extraordinary, but you've now done five years at Manchester United – it's just gone so quickly…
“It's crazy, yeah. It has gone quick.”

Because you've had five years here, within the group do you feel like one of the more senior players?
“It hasn't kicked in yet! But when you look at how many years I've been here, it’s close.”
Wan-Bissaka's best moments v Forest Video

Wan-Bissaka's best moments v Forest

Player highlights | Aaron Wan-Bissaka was influential at both ends of the field against Nottingham Forest...

And this season is going to be special because the club’s back in the Champions League. Is that something that you're excited about?
“Yeah, definitely. That's what the club's meant to be in and, we're in it. So that's a competition that we'll be looking to aim for and try to win that.”

Will you be watching the draw? Do you look to see who's coming or do you not worry so much about that? And you just think whatever it is, take it?
“Yeah, whoever comes, just take it. I think that's how we should look at it. No game is easy, but we should be ready for when that game comes.”

Do you do it when the Premier League fixtures are first released? Do you have a look and think, when’s City, when's Liverpool, when's Arsenal, when's Palace?
“I'd say so, yeah, to see when the big games come up. We know how much it means to the fans when those games do come.”

Who do you look for first?
“To be honest, I look at the first game. I look at the games around Christmas, because there's a lot that's squeezed in there. And the last game of the season, see if it's home or away.”

We've seen so much attacking play from you and a host of skills. Is that just you expressing yourself on the pitch, are those things you work at?
“Yeah, it's things I've been working at. It's what the manager wants, he wants me in those areas of the pitch. It also helps the team, whether I've got the ball or not, just to make space for them and create opportunities.”

You mentioned that you just enjoy the game. Is that the thing that you love the most, just being on the pitch and playing? Whether that's running forward with the ball or tracking back and tackling, it's just all great...
“Definitely. I think that's with every player – every player wants to just play and enjoy football. That's why everyone wanted to become a footballer.”

There were loads of positives last season. But when we look to improve, what do you think we'll be looking at?
“Just more goals, more clean sheets, keep the performances consistent.”

The full version of this interview was first published in the September issue of Inside United. Copies and subscriptions are available from manutd.com/magazine.