Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag: Defending not a concern

Tuesday 24 January 2023 12:41

Erik ten Hag says his side’s defensive capabilities are not a concern in the aftermath of Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Arsenal.

The Gunners pinned us back during the closing stages of the Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium, with Eddie Nketiah flicking home a 90th-minute winner to break United hearts.

According to Opta, Arsenal recorded a season-high 63 touches in the United box and their expected-goals (xG) figure of 3.1 was the second-most we have allowed in a game this season, only beaten by the 6-3 Manchester derby defeat in October.

In his post-match interviews, Erik highlighted the ‘small details’ and ‘mistakes’ made by his side on Sunday but, ahead of Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Nottingham Forest, the Dutchman was keen to have a more holistic view of things, pointing out our generally strong defensive performances in recent months.

Ten Hag's team news update


The manager rules three players out of the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Nottingham Forest.

Prior to the weekend, United had kept our opponents at bay in 11 of our previous 18 outings, including the 3-0 victory over Forest in December’s Premier League meeting at Old Trafford.

“No, I think in a lot of games we defended very well, we had a lot of clean sheets,” Ten Hag told reporters at his pre-match press conference.

“Against Man City [in the 2-1 win at Old Trafford], we defended very well. I think, in general, also against Arsenal, we defended well.”

Erik also raised that, while United allowed Nketiah a shot from a good position - the Arsenal forward was thwarted by David De Gea - the Gunners' three strikes could all have been stopped and that we cannot be breached so regularly in big games going forward.

“I don't think they had many clean shots, I think the one time [they did] was from a free-kick. But the rest were shots from distance, when we had a lot of defenders in between the ball and the goal.

“That's what I meant when I said all the goals were avoidable and it can't happen. That was my point, when you concede three goals in a top game, it is very hard to win the game.

“That is what happened so that is one of the conclusions. It can't happen. We set that conclusion. We [the coaches] showed them [the players] and we have to learn and take this lesson.”

United's defensive fortitude will be boosted by the return of Casemiro from suspension: November's 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa is the only instance of us conceding more than once in a game that the Brazilian has started since his summer move from Real Madrid.

Diogo Dalot, however, is still sidelined, after picking up an injury in the fifth-round success over Charlton Athletic.