Ten Hag: We really want to go for this challenge

Thursday 23 February 2023 06:59

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag believes his players are ready to stand up and be counted ahead of our huge Europa League second-leg showdown with Barcelona at Old Trafford this evening (20:00 GMT).

With the tie hanging in the balance at 2-2 following the enthralling first leg in Spain last week, the Reds will hope to draw energy from our unwavering support at the Theatre of Dreams, in a bid to carry us through to the next round.

After our impressive 3-0 win over Leicester City in the Premier League at the weekend, our unbeaten home run stands at 17 games prior to Barcelona's visit later tonight.

Ten Hag has issued his own stark message ahead of the clash, insisting his players must do all they can to come out on the right side of the result. Below, you can read everything the boss had to say in our exclusive interview...

Matchday Q&A | Ten Hag on Barcelona (H) Video

Matchday Q&A | Ten Hag on Barcelona (H)

Our interview with Erik is essential viewing before tonight's blockbuster fixture at Old Trafford...

Erik, how are you and how are the team, and players such as Antony, Martial, Maguire? Are they available this week?
''Anthony Martial, he is on the [training] pitch, he is working hard. Not available for tomorrow but Harry Maguire and Antony dos Santos, we have one training session to go but I am optimistic. I think they can join the team.''

We did very well in our first leg against Barcelona which was very pleasing for the fans to see, but now with Sabizter and Licha free from suspension, and Scott back playing, you have a little bit of a headache in deciding this team haven't you?
''I like such headaches and problems like this, because you have options and we need it. We have many games coming up, especially games when you face Barcelona, you need weapons. So I’m really happy we have a strong squad tomorrow.''

The team chemistry is so clear for everyone to see. Diogo told us that everyone counts and they all have a say in this team. That mentality right there, does that help you when deciding the team?
''Of course, mentality is always decisive, whether you win or lose. If you win games but also if you want to win trophies the mentality makes a difference. The element of belief, the winning attitude, the confidence that you have to show in every game and also in difficult situations, that makes a difference.''

You shouted a message to the fans after the win on Sunday. We need them on top form for this game don't we?
"I think we have to make a bond together, and the fans and the players. We have to keep the process going. It’s great at Old Trafford, and in away games, and you feel it, the vibe between the fans and players. We have to keep working on it."

Revealed: Ten Hag's message to fans


Erik said he spoke to supporters following the full-time whistle at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Old Trafford has become a fortress this season and there have been two magical atmospheres against Barcelona in the past, in 1984 and 2008, that are still talked about by the fans. Have you been told about those special games since joining the club and does that give you extra insight into this fixture at Old Trafford?
"I have seen but I did [only] have a glimpse from those games. But it must have been [magical]. What we want to do is build a new future. We know Barcelona is a big team, it’s a big club, but we are really excited to face them. We really want to go for this challenge. That is all that counts.''

The fans were very pleased to see you and Sir Alex Ferguson out for a meal this week, they are very eagle eyed. What is your relationship like with Sir Alex and how amazing is it that you can speak to the heart and soul and such a legend of the club?
''It’s great. He wants to help the club. It’s his club and you feel it and he feels so committed. He wants us to do well so he will do everything to help us. I’m sure it’s great to talk to him about football but especially, of course, about Manchester United.''

This is such a busy week for the Reds and fans have dreamt about these moments for such a long time. How crucial is it that we just give it our all as we hope for a successful week?
''That is all, go one by one. Tomorrow is first, we need all the energy, all the focus, everything we have to put in, to get the right result. We have to win. When we finish this game, we move on.''