Every word from Erik's pre-City press conference

Friday 13 January 2023 14:32

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag met with the media at his press conference on Friday afternoon, ahead of the highly anticipated clash with Manchester City on Saturday.

Our city rivals make the short trip to the Theatre of Dreams for a 12:30 GMT kick-off in the Premier League this weekend, in what is the 189th competitive meeting between the two sides.

Ahead of the match, Erik issued updates on the fitness of his squad, heaped praise on Casemiro, and previewed his second Manchester derby in charge of the Reds.

His responses to the above topics, and many more, are included in the full transcript of the Dutchman's press conference (part one), which you can see below...

Part one: Erik's pre-City press conference Video

Part one: Erik's pre-City press conference

Press conference part one | The boss answers reporters' questions on Martial, Weghorst and more, ahead of the derby...

Can you update us on the deal to sign Wout Weghorst and is he available to play tomorrow?
"I think we are close, so he will not be available for tomorrow, no."

In terms of building up to this game you’ve played Manchester City already this season and the first half was not great. How further forward do you think you are now?
''The question, we have to prove that tomorrow on the pitch and the truth is on the pitch, so [it is] quite clear, last time we didn't do well so tomorrow we have to do better. We have to work on it and it’s not only coming overnight. It was a process in the last months where we develop, where we have progressed, and we now have to face it against better teams. We are looking forward to it and that is one of the things: it is about mental approach, mental attitude, so we have to be brave and we have to act with belief and play our game.”

Do you look at the table and think about closing the gap on City? How do you view the situation?
"It's January and the season is not even halfway so [we are not] talking about it. This is the second time we face Manchester City but it's a long way. This period in the season is about getting yourself in the position you win trophies in the end of the season. It’s about nothing else, so go from game to game. Don't look too far ahead."

How do you feel coming into this match, after the last game versus City?
''I think the same. That was how I analysed the situation and the game. I expressed honestly it was a lesson and we took the lesson and since then we have made huge progress. We have to continue that progress and the process.''

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What have you done to have the turnaround? It might be boring in terms of the processes...
"It may be boring yeah, but things are like that. I think that game was a setback and you can find reasons why but it’s not that interesting. It's always about [how] you have to act, you have to deliver and, as manager and coaches, you have to go through certain steps. You need a clear vision, you need a clear philosophy, you need a clear point where you want to go, a direction and then it's about development. That’s what we are doing, and that’s what we did. There are many things in life, especially in top football, but there’s never an end point."

United and City have had contrasting weeks, with United recording an eighth consecutive win and City losing to Southampton in the Carabao Cup. Is this good time to play them?
''I don't look [at their form]. Of course, we notice that they had a setback. Of course I [have] seen many games of them. We have to look at ourselves and we have to play our best game. The opponent always plays an important role in football, but we have to play our best game on the pitch together. With togetherness and full belief, no naivety and come onto the pitch and act as a winner.''

6-3 was quite a scoreline last time out against City. Have you been using that as motivation for this one?
"It's not about that game anymore, it is about the future. That is the past. The past you can’t change, but you can change the future."

You are the fastest United manager to reach 20 wins. How much satisfaction do you take from that?
''It tells nothing.  It’s nice but you deserve nothing for it. It is about, as I said before, it is about winning trophies. We are in a project and we want to win in this project trophies and that is what we work for day by day. [We] have the players, the staff and everyone around the club to win the trophies.''

How is the squad looking for the match tomorrow?
"I think Diogo Dalot is not available and Anthony Martial, he trained this morning, so we have to wait [to see] how he recovered from this training and if he's available, and that will be decided tomorrow."

What has the issue been for Anthony [Martial]?
"It is a small thing. Something specific in his leg so whether tomorrow or otherwise, he will be available for Wednesday, I think."

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You've had to play with five different backlines in the six matches. How much of a challenge is that in terms of getting a rhythm ahead of this match?
“I think we only conceded one goal in the past [games after the restart]. We made changes but we were also quite stable in a certain back four.”

You talked about the process. How big of a part has Casemiro played in that?
"That is quite obvious. I have said it from the beginning, this team they need a six. But what is a six? What is the definition. So control, holding midfielder, but he is so important. He is the cement between the stones, I often say, but it means defending, organisation, [he] knows his position, so anticipating, pointing. He is in the right position, winning balls for the team, duels winning. But also in possession, he can accelerate, speed up the game. He is a typical... he has that competence to give to a top team on the top level. There are not many players of this quality in the world. He is one of them, so we are really happy to have him on board, because he makes a huge difference."

You said you need to wait until tomorrow to find out if Martial is available. How much would it change your plans if he is not available?
''He [Weghorst] is not [available]. Weghorst wasn't available in the last weeks, so it would be a bonus if he was. Hopefully he will soon be there and also, we are winning a lot of games without Anthony Martial.''