Ten Hag: The players just love to play

Saturday 05 November 2022 06:59

Erik ten Hag believes his Manchester United players have no issues with the packed schedule as the squad flew back from Spain to prepare for Sunday's Premier League assignment at Aston Villa.

The Reds then face Unai Emery's team again, in the Carabao Cup in midweek, before the final match in the division, at Fulham, before the long break for the World Cup finals in Qatar.

Following the 1-0 win over Real Sociedad, which was insufficient to secure top spot in Group E of the Europa League, we now also face two additional play-off fixtures in that competition, early next year.

However, the Dutchman appreciates footballers would rather play than train, and he has emphasised this is why he needs a full squad. 

Check out what the boss had to say in his club media interview with Stewart Gardner in San Sebastian...

Ten Hag's pre-Villa Q&A Video

Ten Hag's pre-Villa Q&A

The manager discusses team news, Bruno's absence, young players and focus, in advance of our Midlands mission...

First of all, is there any team news either from the players here or the ones back home?
“No. not really. We are preparing for the next game and we have to get ready for the next game. We need to get focused and get the energy so we will be [doing that]. We have training here [in Spain], have a recovery session, they do it well, and then fly back and be ready for Sunday.”

So is it a case of checking on the guys back at home when you get back there – the likes of [Jadon] Sancho, Antony, [Anthony] Martial?
“Yeah, we will see tomorrow. They work at Carrington and then we will see how they recover and then we will pick a team.”

Bruno [Fernandes] has played every game for you, but he's going to miss this one. How will we cope with that?
“Yeah, until now, Bruno is so important for us. In every match, he plays really good. I think also yesterday, he was playing from the right, he made an impact there as well. You see, for instance, with the goal and also some other actions. As a no.10, he’s playing really good games and we have to replace him, that’s the squad. Therefore, you need a squad, it's not about 11 players, you need a squad to win in a season and now we have to replace him and we will do.”

There are two extra games early next year to try to qualify for the next stage in the Europa League. Some see it as a disadvantage but you don’t?
“We definitely have two extra games to cover in this hard season. We have a lot of games, that’s clear, but also it’s an opportunity for this squad to develop and to get into the process. Players like to play matches, rather than training, so, in that matter, it is also an advantage.”

It gives opportunities for players, we saw that last night with Alejandro Garnacho, and to take their chance as well…
“As well and if they deserve it, they have to deserve it in training and we give them opportunities, the deserved opportunities, to everyone – also to the young players. We have some young players so they have to fight, we have to see them every day and, when they do, they come in. Especially as an attacking player in the front line as we have some problems [there] with numbers, some injuries and some illness, so I’m really happy with the performance and development of Garnacho. I hope he can keep this process going, and then we have the extra option and that is what we need.”

Will the training camp in Spain next month provide more opportunities for young players to impress?
“Of course, also it is the opportunity but first now the focus is on the coming week. We have to cover three games and we have to bring everything into every game and go game from game. The first focus is on Sunday.”

We kept another clean sheet and the defensive record has been outstanding – what is the key to that?
“Because we defend with 11, starting with Cristiano [Ronaldo] up front. So we are hard to beat as a team. I think that’s a compliment but it’s also that process we have to keep going, that makes it hard to beat us because everyone is convinced of that plan, everyone is disciplined in that plan. When we play with the desire and passion, we are hard to beat and that makes us, in this moment, successful.”

How are you managing the Thursday-Sunday scheduling, is it difficult and challenging for you?
“No, it’s about recovery, food, sleep and getting ready for the next game. As I say, the players want to play, they want to play matches rather than training, so they are looking forward to the next game.”

It’s one last week before the World Cup break, with Aston Villa twice and then Fulham, so is the message to just have full focus for that?
“Yeah but go from game to game. Focus on the next game at Villa Park in Birmingham, [with a] nice ambience, and get ready for that.”

Just finally, United fans have voted Casemiro and [Lisandro] Martinez first and second for the Player of the Month. Are you pleased with how the signings have integrated so quickly into the squad?
“I think the signings thank the squad. [They are] the right players with the right players who were already there and, together, they are forming a team and the team spirit is good, it’s high. So also [we need] to keep that going, keep constructing that, keep building that, and bring even more passion and desire in because we want to win something.”