Erik ten Hag

Every word from Erik's post-match press conference

Saturday 24 February 2024 19:13

Erik ten Hag accepts Manchester United's defeat to Fulham is a setback but shouldn't undo all the good work that the team has managed in recent weeks.

The Reds slipped to a first defeat of 2024 on Saturday afternoon, after Alex Iwobi scored deep into stoppage time to give the Cottagers a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

Ten Hag felt Casemiro's enforced second-half substitution disrupted his side but was pleased with the character his players showed to get back into the game before the late blow.

Below, you can read every word from his press conference with reporters after the game...

That’s 10 defeats in the Premier League now. People have talked about qualifying for the Champions League – is that realistic after losing so many games?
"After these two months I wouldn’t go to that approach. We have seen lately that we have done very good. Now we have some setbacks, also today, we could have won this game, maybe should have won this game, because the team showed great character.

"We had two slow starts in both halves, and in the second half, definitely, it was a big blow to lose Casemiro. We lost some stability in the team and we conceded in that moment. Also, the goal was very avoidable and then we fought back, so I have to credit the team for showing big character. Then we went for the win but, in the end, we let them slip away."

Was it too soon for Omari Forson because he looked like he was struggling a bit out there?
"I wouldn’t say that. I think he had some good actions and it was a reasonable performance. It’s never easy, especially when there’s a slow start, but there were some good actions and he was reliable in his job, so I wouldn’t say so."

Watch Ten Hag's press conference Video

Watch Ten Hag's press conference

Erik took questions from the media at Old Trafford, after we faced Fulham...

For all the great character you showed when you fell behind, what did you think of the performance up to that point because Fulham’s goalkeeper wasn’t exactly needing to have the performance of his life?
"I think Garna [Alejandro Garnacho] beat the goalkeeper but they were getting the ball off the line; Diogo [Dalot] hit the bottom of the post too. We had our chances before half-time."

So did they, to be fair…
"They had chances too, I have seen – Iwobi. But we created our chances. I have seen, it was a brilliant chance but unfortunately, Bruno [Fernandes] and [Marcus] Rashford stepped on each other after a great pass from Casemiro – that was probably our best chance we created before half-time. So we had our chances and we beat Leno but he was lucky by having a player on the goalline."

This time last year, you won the Carabao Cup final and were on an upwards direction in the league, you made the FA Cup final. You’re now in this position – why are you not as good as you were last season? What’s happened?
"You know. So we had some setbacks…" 

Injuries, for example? Would that be the major one?
"It’s the truth. We don’t have a left full-back, then we had the big drop-out of Casemiro, Licha Martinez, but still we have the players and the squad to deal with it. And also today we could have won this game, maybe should have won this game. In the end, we showed great character and we have to do with these players.

"We have had a good run, now we have to recover from this setback, look forward, prepare for the next game, be ready for it and do better than today, especially in the manner of the result."

Can you recover the eight points to Villa in fourth place?
"I said from January on, we are in finals – we won many finals and now we have lost one."

A lot of talk this week with Jim Ratcliffe has been on the future of the club. Do you feel it’s going in the right direction still after a setback like this?
"I am not that opportune after one defeat. You have to see the bigger picture, and that looks very good. We have to catch up in certain positions, get the injuries back, because then we will be more balanced. That is one thing, and then strengthen the squad in the transfer window. We have, coming up, many good players, really high-potential players who are getting better and better. So we are definitely heading in the right direction. When we have the players in the squad available, we are a very good team."

You often say when players are unavailable that it’s hard to establish the right routine. When that happens, is the thought to make the other players learn the routines or do you ever consider changing what the routines are to make it easier?
"No, they know what the routines are. Definitely some things have changed and other players coming in have different identities, different skills, and we have to adapt as a team, but the principles are still the same. Today, we had our good slots. After a slow start in both halves, we came in the end. By the end, we deserved the win but then you have to take the win, by scoring goals and not letting them break, which was very avoidable."

How do you do that adaptation?
"They have the principles of the way we play, so everyone knows how to play in their position."