Ten Hag: We must prove ourselves in every game

Friday 21 April 2023 18:30

Erik ten Hag says that Manchester United's players must meet the expectations of the football club in every single match.

The Dutchman spoke to the media again just after five o'clock on Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the Reds were eliminated from the Europa League in Seville at the quarter-final stage.

Turning his attention to Sunday's Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion, Erik used the pre-match press conference to reiterate his standards and explain that his players 'have to be prepared to battle' in every fixture.

The boss was also quizzed on the fitness of his squad, Harry Maguire's role in the dressing room, and more, and you can read every word from Erik's media briefing below...

Ten Hag's FA Cup semi-final press conference Video

Ten Hag's FA Cup semi-final press conference

Press conference | Erik talks about the challenge of bouncing back for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Brighton...

There have been a few performances - Liverpool, Newcastle and Seville - that have been way below expectations and you've been harsh in terms of your assessment, yet they happen again. Why?
"First of all you have to acknowledge. It's the truth, we have to do better and I know that. I have to teach the players that they [need to] do better in such circumstances and such occasions. We have to do better with such expectations because, as you said, the demands are on this team and because we are Manchester United, [they] are high and we have to deal with it, we have to improve it. I have to teach the players and the players have to step up."

It's a disappointing game and the mental side may have taken a blow. With a game like this [against Brighton], is it a good game to bounce back from and are you thinking about refreshing your team?
"You ask a lot in one question, but of course I always think about 'do I refresh?' because I have a squad. But also I know that in this season when we had bad defeats, bad performances, we bounced back. I am convinced and I have strong belief we can do it again because we have the experience."

What do you feel that last night taught you about your squad, where it's at, and what you might have to do in the summer?
"Listen, in this moment I don't think about the summer. Of course [it is in the back of my mind], but I am thinking about improving this team, improving these players. So that's my job, together with my coaching staff and together with my players, so we have all our focus on that process and not on other processes because that will distract you. I know this group of players can do better because they already proved it. They have proved it so many times in this season. We have made huge progress during the season but we have steps to go. We have still a lot of games to play and we have a lot of occasions to prove it and so all the energy has to go in that way."

After the loss against Brentford, famously you all went out and did the running - you included. Realistically you've just got here [to London] and you've got until Sunday. What can you do with your squad where your players might be a little low on confidence?
"I don't go running with them today because we don't have the time. But we know we didn't match the standard yesterday and the expectation on the team, and the manager, at Manchester United is higher so we have to do better on Sunday than we did yesterday."

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Can I just ask about team news and how players are shaping up?
"Quite good. But it's so short after the last whistle in Seville so I can't give a comment on it. We didn't train until now, when we arrived here. Now we go to train and so after the training I know more."

On the defeats this season, six of the nine have been by more than one goal and it's kind of a habit in some games that there's a setback and the team kind of collapses after that. How do you go about fixing that? Is it a mentality issue more than anything?
"We can't deny it but I don't think we confirm it when we [don't] deny it. No, it's [a] mental [thing] yeah definitely and we have to learn that you keep going and you carry on. What this team can do is bounce back in between games. But what this team can do less is bounce back during a game, in a setback. That is what we have to improve."

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Brighton's manager gave little away with regards to his squad ahead of our FA Cup semi-final.

Do you have faith in the structure of the club to do the recruitment as you wish in the summer?
"Oh yes. I have. But it's not why we are here. We are here to prepare for Brighton and get the best out of this team and this group of players. So that's what I am doing, where all my energy and focus is on."

On Harry Maguire, he was criticised by some supporters for last night. As club captain, what has impressed you about him this season and what does he bring to the team?
"He has an important role in the fact he is captain. He leads, he communicates with the manager. He motivates the team. He is the example on the training pitch and always [has] good sessions."

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Is it fair to say some of your players in the remaining games are playing for their future?
"Yeah but I think we are always playing for our futures, as professional players. Every game is a test, every season is a test and you have to earn the right to wear the shirt. But also for me as a manager. In that matter, we are in the same boat, but I think we make huge progress. We have the experience now but we have still a way to go. So we have to step up and the good thing is Sunday is the next opportunity. It is a great opportunity, it is the semi-final of the FA Cup. [There is not a] better event you can imagine, so take that and then after it, [there's] still a lot of great games to go and we have to prove it and this group of players has to prove it."

Some of them maybe still don't realise the expectations on them when they play for Manchester United? Do some of the newer players still need to understand that?
"I think they do, but if not then it is getting time to be aware of it. And it's great to be part of Manchester United, to be part of this really [great] football club. The flip side is you have to prove it every game. Every game you start from zero and that is what we have to acknowledge and be aware of it. You have to be prepared every time for the battle and for the fight."