Ten Hag: It's good that Forest are back

Tuesday 27 December 2022 06:59

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has shared his admiration for Nottingham Forest, following their return to the Premier League this season, after a 23-year absence.

Set to take on Steve Cooper's men this evening at Old Trafford (20:00 GMT), the Dutchman spoke candidly about the late Brian Clough and his achievements during his tenure at the City Ground in the late seventies.

Speaking during his matchday Q&A ahead of United's clash with the Tricky Trees, Erik said it is great that the historic club returned to the top-flight this year, and he looks forward to taking them on as the Premier League resumes after the World Cup.

Providing his thoughts on the return of Jesse Lingard to Old Trafford, as well as a foreword on Dean Henderson's progress under Cooper too, you can read and watch the full interview below…

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

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

Erik discusses the late Brian Clough, Jesse Lingard and Dean Henderson's loan, ahead of today's clash with Forest...

Erik, how are you? And are the team all okay ahead of our Forest clash?
''Yes, I think so [everyone is ok]. The feeling is good. The players from the World Cup are back, are integrated again and you feel they are excited. [They had] massive impressions there [in Qatar], but now they are back, and you feel their energy. They are looking forward to the restart [of the Premier League].''

Are there any injuries to report in the squad or are they all looking healthy in that sense?

''We had some problems with illness like Harry Maguire, but he was back on the training pitch today so I’m happy with that. Rapha Varane and Licha Martinez, they are not there. but we hope [they will] comeback [soon].''
Nottingham Forest are known for their huge history, so football fans in general were very pleased when they were promoted. Are you happy to see them in the English top-flight for the first time in this century?
''Oh yeah. I think it’s great. I think it was 1979 and ’80 [when they won the European Cup], a great team. The man is mental, Brian Clough. I remember the song [We’ve Got the Whole Word in Our Hands]. Everyone remembers the song that they had in that time. So, it’s great that such big traditional clubs are back in the Premier League. Because it is a traditional club, I like such club. What is really a club from the crowd, the audience, the atmosphere in the stadium must be great. One time I had the pleasure to play there, so I have already had the experience there. So, it’s good for the Premier League that they are back.''

We’ll see a familiar face, Jesse Lingard, who scored in midweek for Forest. Do you think he’ll get a warm reception on his return?
''I think the Manchester United fans always show respect for the opponent so definitely when a former player is coming in, they will show that respect. They will value the things he did, the good things he did for Manchester United, but from minute one it’s about winning this duel. So, we will go into the fight, and I expect fans of Manchester United will support our team.''

We always support our loan players and one of those is Dean Henderson at Forest. He is ineligible to play but it’s always good to see players go out on loan and do well, isn’t it?
''Yeah, it’s very good. His levels are fantastic, we are following really strictly his performances and we are happy with the level he is showing. I am sure he is helping Nottingham Forest, and we are also happy that he cannot play in this game!''

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We’ve kept six clean sheets in our last seven home games, to have those statistics at Old Trafford is fantastic for the team and the fans, but it’s great to just be so strong at home, isn’t it?
''We have to be a team that’s hard to beat and that has to be the approach in every game, home or away. But to win football games, it is definitely important when you have that philosophy, [being] hard to beat and conceding less goals. We are in a good direction, so we have to keep that process going. So, it’s about defending tough, showing discipline and not a ‘but’ or a ‘if’, no, just do your job.''

You’ve spoken about in the past about how much you love the ‘grinta’, that South American passion, we’ve seen it with Lisandro Martinez in the World Cup. Do you think that passion, that we’ve seen in our squad as well, was why Argentina did so well in the World Cup?
''Yes, I think so. I think Argentina was the best example of playing proactive, they play to win. There were many other teams that played not to lose. I think when you have that approach, you get hammered by the end. They played every game to win and there was a real proactive way of playing with a certain aggressiveness. They showed it in every game, they were resilient as well, they showed that after the first game when they lost. They dealt with it, they returned, they had that spirit and finally they won the World Cup. I think it was a deserved win.''

We hear that the club may have triggered some one-year extensions on the contracts of Diogo Dalot, Fred, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw – can you tell us if that’s true or not?
''Yes. I can confirm it, that’s first and we are happy because the squad is going in the right direction and those players are a massive contribution in that direction we go now. We want to develop, we want to support those players and we want them to keep in our process. So, that’s why we came to those decisions, I’m sure they are the right decisions. We want to construct a team for the future, so for longer years, and those players have to be part of it.''
You welcomed United legend Robin van Persie back to the training ground last week, what was it like having him around with his influence and experience? How important is that to have that around?
''I think it’s always great to have such icons in. While he did fantastic here at Manchester United, I think he is also an icon for the fans and our players can learn a lot from him. His experience, his skill and he did some exercises with our strikers, they loved it, to be involved him. We want to help Robin van Persie. He is now planning a management career, so we give him the opportunity to look around, get experiences and hopefully it will help him to construct his career. He is really fanatic, and he really consists of the fact he wants to become a manager. He is taking the right steps, and one day, he will be a manager.''

We have just recently got through to the next round of the Carabao Cup and we’ve been drawn Charlton Athletic – what’s your thoughts on that draw?
''It’s good, we have a home game that I’m happy with but we have to beat everyone. When you want to win a cup, it doesn’t matter who you draw. But, as I said, I’m happy we’re playing at home and Charlton we’re looking forward [to facing]. First, we have other games to deal with, but once we face them, we will prepare very well. It’s a great opportunity and also for that game, we have to be ready to get the right result and the only result is to get into the next round.''

For us, the World Cup break was very new here, that break in the winter time, however in the Netherlands at this time of year, it’s normal that you have this break every season. So, what was it like having that break and is it different to you now having to play games at this time?
''Yeah, it’s different. Obviously as a manager [I haven’t experienced it before]. I was a coach and on the coaching staff I had that experience in the Netherlands as well, but it was only an experiment and after that they quit [on the idea]. So, I am looking forward to the Christmas period, a lot of games coming up, you see a lot of excitement around the fans, they are looking forward to the games after they enjoy their family days. We want them to come to the stadium to watch a proper football game. You see the excitement in the dressing room as well, so we are looking forward to it. I have the energy because we had some weeks off to get that in, we did the work we had to do and now we have to get ready for the restart.''
It is the Christmas season, so we have to ask you, if there was one football related present that you could have for Christmas, what would it be?
''I would say a ticket to a great game, and I think Manchester United must be involved!''

Do you have a message for our fans this Christmas?
''I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Get energy in this period but also share it with your loved ones. Give each other a lot of love and go for a new year with a lot of health and a lovely and peaceful 2023.''