Ten Hag: We are ready for the pre-World Cup period

Sunday 02 October 2022 07:00

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is happy with the work that has been done behind the scenes at the club over the course of the recent international break in order to be as prepared as possible for the busy block of games to come.

The Reds will play 13 times across the Premier League and Europa League over the next 43 days, starting with this afternoon’s short trip over to the Etihad Stadium for the Manchester derby with City (14:00 BST). 

While 16 of Ten Hag’s players represented their nations at senior level over the hiatus, the preparation and planning has been continuing behind the scenes at Carrington, between those that stayed at the club and the backroom staff. 

Erik is confident that United took full advantage of the interval – lengthened by the postponement of our two previous league fixtures – and are now ready to tackle an action-packed agenda head on, before the World Cup's kick-off in November. 

That’s what he told us in his pre-match interview prior to the derby, while he also spoke about his recent award win, Pep Guardiola, Marcus Rashford’s form and more. You can read, and watch, the full interview below…
Matchday Q&A | Ten Hag on Man City (A) Video

Matchday Q&A | Ten Hag on Man City (A)

Marcus Rashford's form, the pre-World Cup period and Pep Guardiola are topics in our exclusive chat with Erik...

That was typically selfless of you, that’s the kind of guy you are. In the backroom staff, everyone works hard towards this common goal…
“It’s never one in football, there are a lot of people. I mentioned the players, I mentioned the backroom staff but it’s a club, there are many employees who are working on the same [goals] and if we work together, we can achieve a lot. That is what we want to express and that is the way we work in this moment in this club and I’m happy with that.”

As well as your Manager-of-the-Month award, Marcus [Rashford] picked up the Player-of-the-Month award, how pleased are you for him?
“I’m really happy for him. That tells that Marcus is back on track. He is in his middle 20s, he showed in the past in his young career already a lot. Last year was definitely a setback but you see, he’s back on that level and I’m really happy and I’m convinced he can score a lot more goals and that he will be a contributor for our team. But also, it’s a team performance that [allows] Marcus to do that work because they bring him the balls in their cooperation, so it’s good to see and it will be a stimulus for both, the manager and the players, [to know] that we are in a good direction so now, [we need to] keep going.”
How was your international break? Did you get some well-earned rest? You’ve been working so hard…
“Yeah, it’s always two things in the international break: it was long because we missed two Premier League games as well, but you can work how you cannot during the season because you go from game to game, so you work on strategies. But also, on the other side, there is time for relaxation, but you work on strategies, next games, now it comes in a block for us from October to November and there are many challenges, but we have to prepare really well, and I think we did. So, we are ready for it.”

There were actually loads of positives to take from the recent internationals, for example, goals for four of the players including Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot. So, do you notice those kind of players coming back with a spring in their steps after playing for their countries?
“Yes, I think so the most. But also, there were some setbacks, Portugal [lost] two or three minutes before [the final whistle v Spain], they lost the final position, but I think, in general, the teams but also our individual players had successful Nations League performances. We are happy with it but also it reflects the work we are doing at Man United in this moment because the players are in the right form. That’s good to know and that belief, we have to take that with us, starting on Sunday when we go to the Etihad.”

It's always daunting for a manager during this international window because you don’t know how players are going to come back, maybe with an injury… so, how is the squad looking now you’ve got players back here?
“It’s looking, in the first moment, really good and as you say, it’s always doubtful [if your players are going to return fit from the break]. As a manager, you’re not happy, you are losing the grip, they go away. You will always be happy when they come back and they are fit, and I think in the first moment, what I see now, they are.”

Ten Hag named Manager of the Month


The boss has won the Premier League's award after United picked up maximum points in September.

As for City, you know Pep [Guardiola], you were both at Bayern Munich at the same time… did you meet much at that time?
“Yeah, we met several times and I think it’s clear, I really admire his work. Attacking football, I think it gives a lot to football, the way he wants to play football and he’s successful with it, so that what I admire from him. I got the opportunity to have a look inside his work, so I am really grateful for that.”

He’s spoken very well of you as a coach, so that relationship appears strong between the two of you…
“Yeah, I admire him, as a person, we have a good relationship. I like him, the way he is. He is really good, I feel really good, but on Sunday, we battle each other!”

Ten Hag: The derby excites me


See Erik’s enthusiastic response when he was asked what being involved in his first Manchester derby means to him.

City are the reigning champions and regarded as the team to beat in the Premier League, so how much are you looking forward to that challenge?
“A lot. It’s another test, it’s good to compete with the best team in the league in this moment and we are really looking forward [to it] because we are in the right direction, we have belief but now, on  Sunday, something is coming to us that we really like, that we’re really looking forward to, it gives us a lot of energy and we want to challenge them.”

Although Erling Haaland has taken the headlines, they have many good players. Is it more about what you do and not worrying about the opposition? 

“As you say, many good players, it’s not only one player. We have to do the things right, we have to play as a team. In possession, it’s really important against them to be brave and get the right positions, but also out of possession, that’s clear. But [we want] the right organisation and intensity.”