Erik ten Hag

Erik: United can smell top-four places

Saturday 02 December 2023 08:00

Erik ten Hag says Manchester United are so close to the sides occupying the top-four positions that we can smell them, as we seek a fourth straight Premier League victory, at Newcastle United on Saturday evening.

The Reds are the in-form side in the division, winning five of our last six fixtures, and that stat was reflected in this week’s November award nominations, with the boss and Harry Maguire on the shortlist for Manager and Player of the Month respectively.

In his matchday Q&A with Sam Carney, Ten Hag discussed those prizes and how United can take positives from Wednesday’s 3-3 draw at Galatasaray to St James’ Park and our clash with the Magpies.

The Dutchman, who said United need to start winning big games to achieve our objectives, also touched upon two left-backs, Tyrell Malacia and Luke Shaw, and a busy month ahead and you can read, and watch, the interview in full below…

Matchday Q&A: Ten Hag on Newcastle (A) Video

Matchday Q&A: Ten Hag on Newcastle (A)

Matchday Q&A | Erik ten Hag gives an update on Malacia, reacts to awards nominations and previews Newcastle away...

Erik, despite the disappointing result in Istanbul, it was a positive performance, as you said after the game. What are you looking for the players to take from that game into Newcastle on Saturday?
“The performance. Yeah, we scored great goals and we were in a hostile environment. We were really calm and composed and we dictated the game. There are very positive signals into the development of a team and we have to take that and to go into another day, into another game.”

And how is the squad looking for that game? We know Marcus Rashford's back from suspension, but are there any updates on our other injured players?
“There are updates. So Ty Malacia, he had surgery, but he will return on quite short notice. I think from the new year on, he can be available. What's very good is that Luke Shaw made his return this week, so we are happy with that. The others are working very hard to return as soon as possible to the team.”

We know all about Newcastle, of course, we know their fans will be really up for the game, the late kick-off. Is it about keeping a lid on that atmosphere as we did so well at Everton last weekend?
“We had some experiences in the last couple of weeks with Copenhagen, with Everton, Galatasaray. We are looking forward again and that is the best as a football [team], that you have such experiences and such challenges that energise you, as an individual and as a team. I'm sure we will be ready for the game.”

And they have injuries as well, like we do. I don't know if you saw in midweek, they obviously were close to winning in Paris. What do you expect from them on Saturday as a team?
“Injuries or not, it will not change their approach. It's a very good team, very good mentality, so we have to play our best to get the points there. But, of course, that's the objective and we are in a great position. We are in a good position now in the table and we're smelling the top four, so we have to get there. So then you have to win big games. It’s not going to be easy. We know that they will be highly motivated against us, but we have to match that. And not only match that, but do even more.”

Ten Hag's team news for Tyneside


The boss discloses his latest plans for Saturday night's showdown in Newcastle.

And we saw yesterday that we've got four nominations across the Premier League awards categories, including yourself as Manager of the Month. Is it good to get that recognition for being the Premier League’s in-form side at the moment?
“It's a recognition and not more, not less, but it shows we are in the right direction. But a lot has to come. We have to build on from this.”

And a word too on Harry Maguire, because he was nominated for Player of the Month. How important has he been in the recent run because, obviously, it's three clean sheets in a row? So how vital has he been for the team?
“Absolutely. Very important. And he fought back and he showed great mentality. He can be proud of himself. But as I say: we are in a season, we are in the right direction. Harry is in the right direction with this team. Now we make the next steps because we want to be successful and Harry is very ambitious. He wants to win trophies. So then, you know, you have to give every day your best.”

And, just finally, this is the first of eight fixtures in December. Other leagues tend to have a break at this time of year, but is there a sense in England it's a really key month for us?
“I think, for every club, it's a key month. But yeah, we have to go game by game and we can take belief, as I said in your previous questions, from what's behind us, that we are in a good direction in the future as a team. For instance, Harry Maguire. And when we build on that belief and we keep both feet on the ground, then I'm sure a lot will come and we have to build on from this.”