Ten Hag: 'Belief' the key to statement win at Villa

Monday 12 February 2024 10:00

Erik ten Hag earned his first away win against a top-six Premier League club on Sunday, citing 'belief' as the key reason behind a very significant three points.

The Reds needed victory desperately at Villa Park, with the Midlanders eight points ahead of us before Sunday's game, but there was a wider context to the 2-1 success.
United had a positive season in 2022/23, but one of the criticisms of Erik's team was that we were still waiting for a seismic win at Anfield, the Etihad or one of the Premier League's other more daunting citadels.
Villa Park is one such venue, these days. Unai Emery's outfit had taken 28 points from the last 34 available at their home stadium, but Scott McTominay's late winner put a dent in that record, and offered United fans some hope that we've made a breakthrough when it comes to our away form.
Ten Hag's post-match press conference Video

Ten Hag's post-match press conference

Press conference | Erik is asked about Scott McTominay's impact, Luke Shaw's withdrawal and more...

Asked about that away record against the 'big boys' during his post-match press conference, Ten Hag implied tactics, style and personnel were not the issue.
"I think we can beat any opponent away or home," began the boss. "But sometimes, we have to believe it more.
"Because then we could have won at Arsenal, where actually we deserved to win. We could have won at Liverpool. 
"It's about belief, and I think this team today believed that they could win this game, and that's why, in the end, you win the game."
United weathered several long, sustained spells of Villa pressure during the 90-plus minutes, and Ten Hag admitted that his side still have to learn how to improve at preserving leads like the one given to us by Rasmus Hojlund's first-half finish.
"We could have done more [like we had done when] we pressed in the first 20 minutes," lamented the boss. "And by making better decisions on the ball. 
"We went, in every situation, for goal, instead of keeping the ball. We were 1-0 up, and when you can't go for goal, recognise the situation and then make decisions [to] keep the ball and attract them out, then find the right moment to speed up. That can be in the early moments, but not always. Clever players, they read the game."
Highlights: Aston Villa v United Video

Highlights: Aston Villa v United

Watch the best bits from our trip to Villa Park...

Despite the notes for improvement, United head into another away test next weekend, at Luton Town, feeling the confidence from three successive Premier League wins. We're also unbeaten in six games across all competitions so far in 2024.
And Ten Hag's men will not have to wait too long for a chance to thwart another top-six side away from home.
The second Manchester derby of 2023/24 is just weeks away, with the Reds due to travel to the Etihad to challenge Pep Guardiola's Manchester City on Sunday 3 March.