Every word from Erik's pre-Southampton press conference

Friday 10 March 2023 13:30

Soon after Manchester United's Europa League last-16 first-leg win over Real Betis, Erik ten Hag briefed the media ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash with Southampton.

The Saints travel to Old Trafford for a 14:00 GMT kick-off, in good heart after an upturn in league form since appointing Ruben Selles.

Erik has maintained that his side must "give the best performance" to come away with three points against the south coast side, who are battling against relegation.

The boss also fielded questions on Bruno Fernandes, Wout Weghorst, Anthony Martial, and more, and you can read every single word from the first part of his media briefing below...

Part one: Erik's Southampton press conference Video

Part one: Erik's Southampton press conference

Press conference | Erik gives a team news update and outlines what United must do to defeat Southampton...

Did you sense this week, that [Bruno has] been fired up to prove people wrong? Is that something he can take forward to help his game going forward?
"I think today he showed big personality by giving this performance and leading the team, and I thought it was brilliant."

He seemed to enjoy that goal and he seemed to be extra fired up, as if he had a point to prove...
"Yeah, but I think he has so many skills, and now scoring with his head from a corner. I think he scores with his right, with his left, with his head. He is creating final passes and I think, of course, he is very happy when he scores a goal because that's important and you can celebrate, and he did together, in togetherness with his fans."

You've said for a while now that when [Wout] Weghorst got one goal, a lot more goals would come. The crowd reacted when he scored as well, and you'll be happy for him, but do you expect that to give Weghorst that confidence so he can go on now and add to your goalscoring?
"I think, as you see, he is often in the right position, then he fails. But he keeps going. So, he showed great personality and character so not only in this game - I think also in this game, he could have already [got] his goal early on, but he keeps focused, he keeps working and he keeps putting himself in the right positions. And, finally, he got his goal and his reward." 
Just on Anthony Martial, is there any chance he may play on Sunday, and do you have to be extra cautious with him now because he's been brought back so many times and had setbacks?
"Yeah, but I think, all the time, we had a good plan and until now it [didn’t] always [work well]. But he is on his way back, he is back in training, but we will be cautious, yeah."

David De Gea's kicking tonight wasn't great. Is that something you want him to improve upon, and can he actually improve upon it? It has been a weakness of his game during his United career...
"From today, I can't ignore it, but I think we have seen many games he did really well. I don't know why, or [what] the reason today was. There was a lot of wind, it's a different ball, he probably had some problems with that. But I know he can deal with it and he will do Sunday better."

Do you not have a general concern about his kicking?
"We work on that; David is working on that. But I think we have seen, in the season, that he is improving, and he will keep improving, I am sure."

How to follow United v Southampton


The Saints are next to visit Old Trafford, as Erik ten Hag’s side look to return to winning ways in the league.

Just on Wout, Erik. He's started all 15 games since he signed. Did you expect him to play as much as that? He doesn't even come out of the team in terms of rotation and starts every game...
"Yeah, because he is capable. He is physically capable to play a lot of games. He is a very fit player, and he recovers very well. Did I expect [it]? I expected that he will play a lot but obviously we have an injury with Anthony Martial, so it's obvious that's the main reason why he's playing every game from the start to almost finish. [Against] Barcelona I think I took him off, but many other games he played, and I think he's doing well as the striker or as the no.10 in the midfield, he's also bringing good performance."

What had you seen to put him in the no.10 role?
"I think he has intelligence from positions, he is a very good anticipator. I tell him to of course [help] linking up there, what he is also doing as a high striker. But in that position, [he is] linking up and getting in front of the goal, when crosses are coming in. And for the rest, also there the defending part he is very good [at] it."

Can I ask you a question about Christian Eriksen? I saw him at Wembley celebrating with the team. How is he doing with his recovery, and does he have a chance of playing again this season?
"I think he will play, definitely. But I can't tell now an expectation, but I think his progress in the rehab is okay. It is going according to plan, so definitely we will see him. But not before the international break."
Do you try and keep him involved in the team talks and keep him as part of the group?
"Yes, he is. But of course, his main focus is in this moment to get back as soon as possible because we need all the players."

Southampton have had a difficult season. What do you make of them? And the mentality tonight was about bouncing back, how important is it to keep that mentality?
"Definitely, we have seen I think two weeks ago Southampton beat Chelsea away, so we have to play an outstanding performance on Sunday to beat Southampton. At the bottom, it's very close so they will be on the front foot, they will be aggressive. They will do everything to collect points here. So we have to be 100 per cent and give the best performance to beat them."

You said before you weren't happy with the performance against Leicester. You're playing so many games and talking about the process. How do you balance this long-term process with the fact you have to play a game basically every three days?
"Yeah, but I think games are good in a process. Every game we are in a rhythm, and we plan the game, but we have a game plan, we give them feedback and, in the feedback, there's often development points in the way of play. So, games are very good to develop the way of play."

Why United v Southampton is not live on TV


The Reds' weekend Premier League game is not being broadcast in the UK.

Do you view games like exams, as a test?
"Every game is an exam. Every time again, as a team and as an individual."

Back on Bruno, you said in your pre-match press conference that he still has a lot to learn, and he will learn because he's intelligent. What in particular do you think Bruno has to learn to make him even better and take his game to another level?
"I think you [are] setting [it] out quite strong. I didn't say [that]. I said I am very pleased with his captaincy because he has given the team energy. He is not only giving the physical output, the best of the whole team, but also he is running in the right direction and he is pointing players in that direction. He is coaching players. So [he is] leading the team in a tactical perspective. His emotion is his weapon, but sometimes it's too strong and, of course, I help him, I support him, and I give him feedback. Sometimes he has to show more controlled emotions, that will help him to stay in the ratio of the game instead of the emotion. So, he has to find the balance to be in the ratio. When to use the ratio as a tool, and the emotional as a tool. So that's the next step. I think that's a nice development point for him and, when he does it, he will be an even better player."