Every word: Erik’s pre-Leeds press conference

Friday 10 February 2023 13:30

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has appeared before the media, ahead of our Premier League clash with Leeds United at Elland Road on Sunday (14:00 GMT kick-off).

The Reds will be bidding to return to winning ways in West Yorkshire, having been held to a 2-2 draw by the same opponents in our last outing on Wednesday evening.

Leeds raced into a two-goal lead thanks to Willy Gnonto's opener and an own goal from Raphael Varane in M16, before Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho hit back to ensure the points were shared.

Occupying third place in the Premier League table at present, United would leapfrog crosstown rivals Manchester City with a victory, before their game on Sunday afternoon against Aston Villa.

Ahead of the encounter, our Dutch boss was quizzed on a number of different topics and below, you can read everything he had to say from Carrington...

Ten Hag's pre-Leeds press conference Video

Ten Hag's pre-Leeds press conference

Erik is asked about his injured players, Alejandro Garnacho, changes to European football and more…

Hi Erik, just wondering if there are any fresh knocks after the game on Wednesday and if Antony, Martial or McTominay could be available on Sunday?
“The last I don't expect but we have some days obviously, but I don't expect it. If I can oversee it from now, I don't see any new problems coming up.”

With the three of them, can you see them being available for the Barcelona match or is it a longer return than that?
“The same answer. I can't say 100 per cent, but I don't expect it.”

Erik, the injuries, you obviously have some long-term ones, but is that a consequence of playing so many matches? With the Barcelona games coming up as well and then the FA Cup game as well, could that a detrimental affect on your season, being the only team still competing on four fronts?
“With the injuries, if you see Christian Eriksen, you can't see that as an impact from the tough season, but it definitely is a tough season with the World Cup in between and a lot of overload from the players. That process is already longer term going on that the load on the players is too much.”

Is it too much to suggest the impact the World Cup could have on your season? Is it going to have an impact on Manchester United and how you train the players, the number of players you have available, whether the players are tired and you are going to have to push them through anyway?
“Christian Eriksen you can't put under that reason. Martial you also can't put under that reason. It is also individual how we can see it and how we can find how things happen. Also that's just injuries and if you play top football, that's how you find limits, injuries will come up. It is a normal issue I would say,”

I noticed with interest your comments with Jadon Sancho coming back last night and scoring. Marcus Rashford has been reinvigorated this season, especially his form after the World Cup. I wonder how much pride you and your coaching staff take from working with young, talented players like that and overcoming difficulty to see them succeed?
“That makes this job so exciting. It is wonderful to work with young people and get the best out of them. Finally, they have to do it by themselves but often they need motivation, they need a push sometimes. Sometimes they need an interjection and also inspiration of a plan.”

I mean clearly you were unhappy with the way you started both halves on Wednesday night but did you learn something about this group of players as well, the way they ultimately responded?
“It is not easy, as you have to replace some players. The routines are not there and this is obvious. We had the combination over the last few weeks on the right with Aaron [Wan-Bissaka] and Antony. Now there is a new combination in the holding midfield position as we have to bring in a new position as Christian Eriksen is away. So the whole midfield construction is new and that takes time to bed in and get the routines again, this takes games and that was obvious yesterday. We played quite well but both starts killed our game.”

Erik's team news update for Leeds away


View the latest on United's squad ahead of our trip to Elland Road.

Erik you said the way Alejandro Garnacho's development has been unexpected, how would you describe the way he has played since the World Cup?
“I think he is doing quite well, he is having an impact. I think he is a threat as we saw yesterday, he had good actions, he was lively, he created great chances but he had to score. Finally it is about that, that you have an effect. As a striker, you have to be on that list, the scoring list, the assist list, the key action list. Of course, we expect the other stuff, the base stuff is also important if you can’t do the extra, you have to do that. That is your base function, but as a Man United player we expect you to have an impact, to influence the score, the result, to have a positive influence on the game by scoring goals and having assists.”

He seemed frustrated when he came off last night as he seemed to throw his hands up? Did you notice that?

He also did the same against Palace when he came off. I mean he is only 18, does he need to calm down a bit and understand these are decisions you have to make?
“I don’t think it is that he doesn’t understand the decision. He’s quite emotional, that is his strength that he is bringing in the game. He wants to win, he wants to play football and doesn’t want to miss any minutes. I think that is a good thing. He is totally convinced about himself, that’s a good thing. You need that under the biggest stress factors that you have to perform, and he is doing [that]. He is contributing to the end but he accepts the decision. The team is always above everything and he accepts that. I think when he is coming off that emotion, the frustration is not off that he is not accepting it.”

Who do you think will start at right-back for United at Leeds on Sunday?poll

Who do you think will start at right-back for United at Leeds on Sunday?

But you've always praised his attitude and the way he tries things in the game, which can always make a difference in the game?
“I think all the players have to be brave and to try as long as it’s in the interest of the team. That is what he is doing quite well because he is taking players on, he outplays them, he is creating chances. But yesterday, he should have scored.”

Two big European nights coming up in prospect against Barcelona in the Europa League, with fresh reports coming out of a new European Super League, a new structure. Where do you stand? Are you an advocate that European football has to move on and has to change? Or are you a traditional supporter of the Champions League?
“I am aware of the dynamic and what is going on, the evolution of football. If they are coming up with new ideas, I have to take a look at it and then I will make an opinion. I am not aware as we are playing so many games at this moment and we have to develop this team with new players and we have some problems we bring in. That is where my focus point is and I need all my energy about new European competitions and all the people at this club will have a look at it and will inform me if the time is there. If the moment is there we have to make decisions and decisions are up to the club.”

Ten Hag admires Garnacho's desire


The manager feels Alejandro's determination to always contribute is one of his strengths.

But the current structure, there are no real issues the way you are concerned?
“I think the structure is good, but there will always be initiatives to make it better. To make the football better and that is what life is. People will always want to construct better which is a good thing. If it is in favour of the football it is always good.”