Why does Erik like Europe?
Erik ten Hag says he is enjoying this season’s Europa League challenge as Manchester United prepare for the game with Sheriff Tiraspol at Old Trafford.
United need just a point to secure progress from Group E, after three consecutive wins, a run which began with us beating the Moldovan side in Chisinau last month.
Ten Hag particularly highlighted the great atmospheres generated by the crowd at our most recent continental game, the late win against Omonia Nicosia, and he wants his side to spark more of the same scenes in the terraces as we continue to improve and adjust to the style Erik demands.
In his matchday Q&A, the Dutchman also updates us on the latest team news and looks a little further ahead, to the forthcoming World Cup break.
Read it in full now…
Erik, firstly, after a very hectic run of games and more to come, how is the squad looking? Obviously you must be pleased to have Harry, Donny and Aaron back with the main group after their injuries…
“Yes, we are pleased with that. They are back in training and they will also be involved in today’s last training for the game for tomorrow and after training we will take the decision.”
You mentioned [in your press conference] about Rapha [Varane] being out until the World Cup now. How is Anthony Martial getting on?
“He's improving. He's back on the [training] pitch, not in the group so we have to wait for that step. But hopefully he's quickly back.”
Matchday Q&A | Ten Hag on Sheriff (H)
Erik’s exclusive matchday interview contains team news, World Cup views and why he thinks scoring late is a great sign…
Reflecting on our last game at Chelsea and also our last Europa League game against Omonia, what does it say about the mindset of this group of players and the team spirit that we have come back and scored so late in those games?
“I think we keep going and it’s a quality that a team who wants to win trophies needs. So we are developing that. I think we are on a good way so we’ll keep that process going but we have to get even more from it.”
We’ve scored a lot of late goals as we’ve said. What is that down to? It’s something United are synonymous with, in our history…
“It’s one of the good things, so [let’s] keep that culture. As a good base, you also need good physical [fitness] to do that in the last stage of the game and the last point is belief. Believe that it’s not ended until the final whistle of the ref and so keep going, keep believing in winning and getting the best result out of it.”
Do you enjoy seeing how much those moments mean to the players and the fans, and also to yourself?
“I like that, that fighting spirit, keep going. You have to believe on the pitch that we go for a better result, so it’s about managing the games always as deep as you can and give the best that you can. That, I think, is our obligation.”
The games have been coming thick and fast, every three or four days, but there have been no signs of fatigue. How pleased are you with the fitness and resilience of the squad?
“I think it’s good. I think it shows that we can come back and we can decide games in the last minutes, which shows that the fitness levels are good. But that is an investment and you have to keep that going. It’s a responsibility for us as the staff but especially the players, to do the right things, firstly at the training ground, on the pitch and in the gym, but also the recovery and the food is really important.”
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Erik ten Hag was asked about Rapha's fitness and his availability for the coming weeks.
Our attentions now switch back to the Europa League. Even a point is enough to qualify but presumably the big focus is on trying to win this group?
“Definitely. But going from one step to the other, the first thing we have to do is win the next game. That is tomorrow so focus 100 percent on this and don’t look too far ahead because then you lose focus. Focus on one thing – win the next game.”
How do you look back on this Europa League campaign so far from the team’s perspective. What things have you learned from the different games about your team?
“It’s [only] four games and Europe is obviously different. But I like Europe. I like the European mindset, especially in the last game against Omonia when there was a great atmosphere in the stadium and then at the end when we scored the winner, it was really good to celebrate that, the players with the fans, and I hope we have that as well tomorrow. The games in Europe, we all use them to get better, to improve and that is what we have to do. We are not satisfied, we are happy with some of our performances, some of our results, but after 24 hours, we keep going and we come to the next one. We have to approach every game and see also in this moment where we are in the season.”
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Sheriff have had a change of manager on the eve of the match. Does that make it harder to anticipate how they will go into this game?
“Maybe. We are aware of it and they can change, they can change from the system and the style. But, of course, they will have a new manager who will want to prove himself. He will be really highly motivated, so we have to be prepared for that.”
And finally Erik, is it just a case now over these next two-and-a-half weeks before the World Cup break of making one big push in all the competitions that we’re playing in?
“We have to go, as I said, from game to game. For the players, it’s important to keep the focus and not lose the focus. So keep it going, go from game to game. We have to win every game so you need one hundred percent preparation and focus.”
And are you enjoying it?
“I enjoy it all the time. I am looking forward to this block again. Good games, big challenges and we have to be ready for every one.”