Ten Hag: Cup football is do or die

Sunday 07 January 2024 08:00

Erik ten Hag says he relishes cup football for its 'do or die' nature, as Manchester United prepare to face Wigan Athletic in the Emirates FA Cup on Monday.

The Reds reached the final of the tournament last term and now must make the short trip to the DW Stadium for a 20:15 GMT kick-off to begin this year's cup campaign.

Erik spoke to club media ahead of the match, as usual, and stressed the importance of his side being prepared for the task in what could be a "hostile atmosphere" under the lights.

Read and watch Ten Hag's Q&A in full below...

Manager's Q&A: Ten Hag on Wigan (A) Video

Manager's Q&A: Ten Hag on Wigan (A)

Manager's Q&A | Erik ten Hag discusses the importance of the FA Cup and the atmosphere he expects at the DW Stadium...

So, Erik, there was some good news this week with the sight of Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez back on the training pitch. Now, how excited are you to see their progress and what's their impact on the squad? Yeah.
“Two class players and they will bring the team forward. We know that and now we're looking forward to their return in the team on matchdays. But we have to wait for that. They still need some time to fully make their comeback but yeah, it is a good signal that they are back on the grass with the team, in the team training. Now, we have to make the next step [to get them] fully in the team training, and then they can work with us.”

Do you have any other updates on the rest of the squad that have been missing?
“Yeah, I think players are on the point to return on the grass, to return on the pitch. Like Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia, Mason Mount. There are players I think during January they will return back into the team.”

Well, fans will be so excited to see them back. And they were when Amad made his first United appearance in two years in our last game. Now, what does he provide? Is it something different in attack and what are his key attributes that you admire?
“Yeah, he is very ball secure. He can bring a key actions, final passes, score a goal. And so I think he has some weapons. That is always what you are looking for with offensive players.”
Do you have anything to tell us regarding the goalkeeping situation with Africa Cup of Nations on the horizon?
“We are talking, we have constructive talks with the Federation of Cameroon and yeah, we will see what the outcome will be.”

Now we actually only have a few games in January in comparison to the normal schedule. So do you and the coaches have a different approach to training this month, especially with a lot more time to work on that training pitch?
“Yeah, but we always have had a very tough programme in 2023. I think one of the toughest programmes from all the teams across Europe, we played so many games. So, we have to take the time to get refreshed. But then also we have to get ready for the second half of the season. We have a lot to play for with the Premier League and FA Cup.”

And as you mentioned, the FA Cup, because our next match is in that competition against Wigan Athletic. Now, what was your reaction when we got that draw?
“So in the cup it is always about do or die and you have to be ready. An opponent will be always 100 per cent when they play against Manchester United, but especially when they play in the FA Cup against Manchester United. So we have to be ready to face them, be well prepared. So we have the expectations that every game we have to win.”
Part one: Press conference v Wigan Video

Part one: Press conference v Wigan

Press conference part one | Erik ten Hag answers questions on Andre Onana, injuries, contracts, INEOS and Wigan away...

So now this is your first-ever away fixture in the FA Cup - a local derby, lower league opposition, under the floodlights. Are you looking forward to it, because the FA Cup is special, it's true taste of English football?
“You shouldn't ask that because it's away. It doesn't matter for us, if we are away or we play at home, we have to win games.”

And what sort of approach do you take when you're playing a team from a different league? Is anything different or sticking to the same as always?
“No. You have to get prepared for that game. Every game is different, every league is different. And the one thing is always the same - you have to be ready for a game. And that means you need to be have the right approach, have the right focus to go into that game and find a way to win.”

Match preview: Wigan v United


The Reds travel to the nearby DW Stadium for the first time in over a decade, for this FA Cup third-round tie.

Now the FA Cup is a great competition to be a part of. How do you reflect on last season's FA Cup experience for yourself?
“I admire cup football because it's do or die in one game. So therefore, I said before, in my approach to your questions you have to be ready. So then I repeat myself but get ready for the game. It's a great game. There will be full attention on that game. There will be a crowd that will be probably hostile. So enjoy that position [and be] fully motivated. So, yeah, be ready and go and play.”

This is the first time in 2024 we are having a chat here. What would you say to the United fans looking ahead to the new year?
“Most important is stay healthy, as always. But look after each other. Look after each other in the United family and be there for each other.”