Every word from Erik's press conference

Thursday 08 February 2024 14:38

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag believes the Reds should treat every match as a 'final' between now and the end of the season.

The boss spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon, ahead of our trip to Villa Park on Sunday, where we will take on Unai Emery's Aston Villa (16:30 GMT).

Erik was asked about Emery, the status of United's squad and our centre-back options in the press conference, with the Reds looking to record our third Premier League win in a row and make it six consecutive matches without defeat across all competitions.

Read every single word from Ten Hag's media briefing below...

Part one: Press conference v Aston Villa Video

Part one: Press conference v Aston Villa

Press conference part one | Erik ten Hag is asked about Martinez, plans for Old Trafford, contract extensions and more…

Hi Erik, we saw that you lost Lisandro Martinez this week. How much of a blow is that and is anyone else close to a return this week? Perhaps Mason Mount or Aaron Wan-Bissaka?
"Yeah, it is a setback of course. Licha was just returning. You see his contribution to the team when he is playing so he brings, apart from his technical skills, also a mentality in the team. It is a big setback for Licha. He is very disappointed, but he is a fighter and he will back, he will be back stronger. We think he will still be back by the end of the season. There are games to play so as a squad we have to replace him. We have very good players in that position who will play there and perform there and as a squad we have to deal with it. And [with regard to] the second part of your question, Aaron Wan-Bissaka today was training but then he dropped out, so I don't know in this moment where he is and what is the diagnosis. Hopefully he is not too bad. And Mason and Ty [Malacia] are not ready to return to the squad."

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has been quoted as saying he wants Old Trafford to be the 'Wembley of the North'. I assume that is music to your ears but, as a manager, would you welcome changes to the stadium even if it meant you had to play away from Old Trafford while the work is done?
"So if that is his view, then I would say it expresses the ambition of this club, which is good. But further on, it is not my task in this club to deal with stadium questions and facilities. My job is to perform the team, to manage the team, to build the squad."
The form has picked up in recent weeks and the goals have started coming as well. Were you always confident that would happen and is it Rasmus [Hojlund] finding his form and Garnacho [playing] on the right that has clicked?
"Players need time. Especially young players. You mentioned Rasmus and Alejandro, they need time but also they need a team. So those two facts were not there in the first part of the season. We had to make a lot of adjustments in the way we play, so it was difficult to serve the offensive part of the team. When that happens then it can go really quickly that players are going to develop and progress and that is what we have seen. But yeah, I was from the start confident that they have the potential to do this, what they are doing. Now it is about keep [on] moving, keep going, be hungry."

Erik, you have spoken about consistency and balance and Lisandro was a player who offered both. Without him, you have options to change it. Will we see Luke Shaw centrally or Victor Lindelof come into there?
"We have options, [for] how to deal with that position. We have good centre-halves in our squad. The others are also available. Luke can play also there. So I am quite confident that we can keep this process going and that others can fulfil that position and contribute playing high levels. Those players are very experienced and are very good players, so it is up to them now to fulfil it."
You are still keen using someone who is comfortable using his left foot there for the build-up play?
"Yeah, it is an advantage we have seen. We have to work on players. But also players can develop in such positions when you work with them and you train them, and I see our players in the backline making better decisions. I see them develop their skills. I am quite confident that we can keep the better ball-play and keep going."

Hi Erik, we saw Villa play with a full first team last night [Wednesday] and lose. Does this now become a must-win game?
"I have said to the team from the start of January that every game is now a final. That was also our approach to West Ham United – we were one point behind them so this is a final. So let's take this challenge. We have to see this as a final. That will be every game from now on, for us. We are already in that mood."

Just on Villa, Unai Emery has had a lot of praise for what he has done. Is there anything in particular he has done well to bring Villa on as we have seen?
"It's very good how he develops this team and it is very clear how they want to play in and out of possession. I think the players know exactly what they have to do. Their jobs and how they have to contribute with each other. They are a really good team and they have weapons in their team. We have to play our maximum levels to get the result."
You spoke about the senior centre-halves you have available. Jonny Evans and Rapha Varane are out of contract next summer. Do you want to keep them beyond this season?
"We haven't made that decision yet."

I saw that great picture of the three young players [Garnacho, Hojlund, Mainoo] sitting on the advertising hoarding. How would you describe the relationship they have off the pitch and have they brought an excitement to the squad?
"I think they enjoy to play together. There is adventure, they are a danger, they want to do it together. They want also to pass the ball to each other and everyone can play to the qualities and everyone can score goals. It is great if they want to do it together, because I think that is the key, and then they can have a lot of pleasure from this and they are young players. I said it before, the future for Manchester United is quite bright and there is so much talent on board. But we have to develop the talent because there is a lot of space for improvement and that is necessary if you want to go to top levels and if you want to achieve a lot. This club wants to win trophies, so it is very ambitious, so they have to step up and bring higher levels. They have to bring consistency in their game but also against the best opposition they have to express the same threat, [because] it is all about that end product."

How to watch and follow Villa v United


All you need to know about the Reds' next outing as we head to the Midlands.

Just going back to Martinez, you have had some bad luck this season. He came off initially and then went back on. What was the thinking there? Did that make it worse?
"I don't think so but Lisandro, it was his decision, and he was comfortable to be back on the pitch. But after he tried and then he stopped in the next attack."

Wasn't it possible to diagnose that when he initially came off?
"In some situations it is clear and obvious. There is always a grey area and it is very difficult to see from the sideline what happened there. Of course, we have the screens and the medicals are over there and communicating with the player. But to assess in one or two minutes is impossible. After a game I always tell you I can't tell [about the severity of injuries] because you need 24 hours minimum and maybe sometimes even longer. So how can you do this in two minutes?"