Ten Hag: We have to play our best football

Sunday 19 March 2023 07:00

Manchester United are set to face Fulham in the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup this afternoon and Erik ten Hag is expecting a tough battle against a "very good" visiting side.

The Reds welcome the Cottagers to Old Trafford for a 16:30 GMT kick-off, just days after booking our place in the last eight of the Europa League with a win over Real Betis

Ten Hag believes his side are "ready" to face a "well-structured" Fulham team, in a bid to reach the semi-finals of a competition we have won 12 times prior. 

Ahead of the last-eight clash, the boss sat down for his regular pre-match Q&A with club media, and discussed the main talking points ahead of the game, including ex-Red Andreas Pereira, who could line up against us this weekend.

But before chatting all things FA Cup, Erik was asked by MUTV's Mark Sullivan about the Europa League draw - which took place on Friday - and saw us paired with Sevilla for the quarter-finals of that competition...

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

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

Erik shares his thoughts on today's FA Cup tie - and the recent Europa League draw - in his exclusive pre-match Q&A...

What is your reaction to going back to Spain in the Europa League quarter-finals?
"It's going to be a tough one, but at that stage of the competition, [they are] all tough opponents. Now we play against a really experienced team who have won the cup - in the last [eight] years - three times. We have to be ready and we have to play our best football to beat them."

They are the record winners. They haven't had a great season in La Liga but do you expect them to still be a very tough opposition as most Spanish sides are?
"[The league] doesn't mean nothing, if you are in this stage of the competition, you are still in, you have a good team, so this is the opportunity for them to make a success of the season. So we have to play our best football."

A lot of football between the game then and now, though. I guess you will be doing your homework and looking at the opponent in much more detail later on?
"It's now about Fulham, not about Sevilla."
On Fulham then, is there any update on team news and the team's injury situation ahead of the game? 
"We'll have to see. We have to see the doctor. I have an idea, but I will have to see the progress with some players about last game. I didn't bring in Scott McTominay [v Real Betis], he had some complaints, we will have to see how that will progress in the coming hours and days."

Antony and Anthony Martial as well, how are they getting on? Will they be available at the weekend?
"Anthony Martial will not be available; Antony, we will have to see how he will progress." 

You mentioned Christian Eriksen's recovery is going really well. Do you expect him back at some point in April?
"At some point in April, yes, he will be back. He is doing really good in his rehab, the progress is very good and we have to see how that develops in the coming weeks."

How to watch and follow United v Fulham


The Reds aim to book our place in the last four of the Emirates FA Cup, ahead of the international break.

That's fantastic to hear. Such a great player, great person too. Speaking of good players, Joao Palhinha at Fulham has been very important for them. He is back from suspension, he's been likened a little bit to Casemiro in the importance to his team. What do you make of the player and how important is he to Fulham? 
"Fulham is a really good team. High in the league, very good performances, they play decent football. Palhinha is definitely a massive factor in that team in that deep position in midfield. [He] organises very good, links up very good, intercepting a lot of balls, but as I said, the whole team of Fulham is well-structured and we have to play our best football."

We know a lot about Andreas Pereira of course, and [Aleksandar] Mitrovic up front is a classic centre-forward. How impressed have you been by the pair of them and by Fulham's performance in general this season? 
"I am happy for Andrea Pereira. We worked together a short time in PSV, a long time ago, then he went his way to Manchester United, played a lot of years here and I think it was a good step [for him]. Now he's playing on a regular basis, has a good partnership with Mitrovic, but as I said the whole team from Fulham is well-structured." 
You're very well versed in FA Cup history, a competition we've won as a club 12 times. One of our earliest foreign players, Arnold Muhren actually scored in the 1983 final for us against Brighton. What do you remember about him as a fantastic Dutch player? 
"I can talk [for] an hour about him. He was playing for my club, FC Twente, he and his brother Gerrie Muhren, they were really stylish footballers, midfielders. Really on the ball, so comfortable, so skilful and [they had] a great view of the game. He could make great passes, but also make and score good goals, I don't think too many but I think his biggest capabilities was the possession game, the positional, and then the feeling for the right pass. The best pass he ever gave was for the Dutch national squad in '88 in Munich and Marco van Basten scored the goal we all remember." 
I remember that tournament very well, I remember England did very badly in it! But you pointed out for us in Sevilla that when we were facing a long break before the World Cup, you wanted the team to finish strongly and we got a really big win at Fulham just before. Are you looking to do similar this time and have that feeling before the international break? 
"Of course, but it's different. It's history, now we have to make it happen for the future as well, and that means all the focus has to be on this game. It's a huge game, just before the international break, but we want to stay in three [competitions] and we have to play our best and we have to prepare the team, and the players have to get ready. It's going to be a massive effort but we are ready to do it." 

You've helped the team reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League, now there's a chance tor reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Is this the business end of the season? Is this where you, the staff and the players collectively push towards that final?
"Yes of course, but I think with this game we close a period, and then after it it goes to the final stage of the season; therefore this game is so huge and we know it. The fans are really excited, on Sunday it's a big game at Old Trafford, they will be behind us I'm sure and we have to give them energy, give them celebrations, and we have to do everything to make that happen."