Erik's press conference, every word: Part one

Friday 17 March 2023 14:00

Erik ten Hag faced the media once again at midday on Friday, less than 12 hours after returning from a triumphant trip to Spain where his Manchester United side sealed a place in the Europa League quarter-finals by beating Real Betis.

As the news broke that United will be returning to the same Spanish city in the next round, this time to take on Sevilla, the manager turned his attention to another competition with a "massive" tie against Fulham in the Emirates FA Cup looming large this Sunday.

The first two questions in his media briefing were, however, about a developing story off the pitch. Below, you can watch the first part of his press conference in full - the second section will be released on Saturday night at 22:30 GMT - and scroll down to read the full transcript...
Press conference part one | United v Fulham Video

Press conference part one | United v Fulham

Press conference | Erik discusses our FA Cup tie v Fulham, Rashy's form, Andreas Pereira and facing Sevilla...

Erik, I’m not sure if you’ll have any input into the delegation who are here today in terms of the ownership of the club, and I’m guessing you didn’t get chance to speak to the Qataris yesterday. But will you get a chance to speak to today’s delegation, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, and if so what is your message to the potential new owners at the moment?
“I just met them. We shake hands but I’m focused on the game. We play a big game on Sunday, Fulham, and all of our focus is on that. Others in the club are dealing with the potential investors.”

But just in general terms, is there anything you can say about what you would like potential new owners to bring to the club?
“No, my job in this moment is to focus on the game, so let’s talk about the game. It’s a big tie and we have to get ready for it.”

How have the cup competitions impacted the mentality of your squad this season?
“I think we have to set our culture, a winning culture. We are Manchester United, we have to win all the games, we have to compete in all the leagues and to win all the leagues. So that has to be the mentality. It is not that you win all the leagues. The mentality is when you go into a game, you have to win the game.”
Speaking of mentality, Marcus Rashford has now scored 30 goals this season in 48 games and 24 in 19 since the World Cup. When others have dipped after that tournament, what is it about Marcus that means he has been able to reach those kinds of levels?
“He progressed during the season. He was also not in the best shape when he started the season but then I think the way of play gives him the base and then he brings the skills in. Then he brings his attitude and mentality, and you see that is bringing him a lot of progress. That gives the team a lot of joy and it gives Marcus a lot of goals and us a lot of wins.”

We’re coming up to an international break. Where do you think Manchester United are in terms of their position in the league, you’re obviously third in the league, but where do you think they are in terms of competing for the biggest honours, the biggest trophies?
“After Sunday, I will set conclusions. We are now in three leagues [competitions] competing and we want to stay in those. So Sunday is a massive game for us.”

Having won a cup at Wembley already, how much of an incentive is that to go back to Wembley in the biggest cup for us, the traditional cup for us?
“Of course it is huge motivation. We all really enjoyed Wembley and we really enjoyed winning a trophy so it has to be the fuel for the next one. [We have to] get pushed by that idea. That has to bring extra energy to beat Fulham.”

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We’ve seen Marcus this season, it’s his best season ever. What have you done specifically with him and what role has Benni McCarthy had? Previous managers have said he lacks that goalscoring instinct, to want to get the ugly goals. Is there something you have switched on in his head, to change the way he’s playing?
“I think the most important thing, of course, is the way of play that gives him the base, gives him structure, gives the team structure. The way of play is in his favour because I knew his skills. Then you also bring staff around who can make him better, who can make him progress or he gets motivated from. I thought we needed one in the staff who was specific and responsible for strikers and Benni’s doing a good job. But don’t forget the others because it’s about teamwork and I think the staff is in good balance. We do it together and it’s not only about Benni McCarthy. It’s about all have there specific jobs in our staff and we co-operate really good together and there’s a good vibe and also they challenge each other. Therefore, it’s a total package that I want to report here. It’s not about one person.”

Andreas Pereira is playing really well for Fulham this season. Is there any regrets at all about not keeping him here?
“He is a good player. I know him already a long time. I had him in the youth of PSV before he transferred to Manchester United. I’m really happy for him that he is progressing that good and I think that is the right step for him because he has to play on a regular basis. He didn’t do that over several years at Manchester United and there is coming a point where you have to switch and maybe step back to progress in the future. So I think he’s doing a good job, that is quite obvious, and the whole of Fulham is playing in a good way.”
Before you came here, did you see a 30-goal striker in Marcus Rashford? Because I don’t think a United player has scored 30 goals for 10 years or so. And also, could we check on the contract situation because that is obviously an ongoing conversation with Rashford’s contract ending next summer?
“I think, if you go back, I said it in the summer when a question came from one of you, several times, if I believed Rashford or Martial, one of them, could score 20-plus goals this season, I said ‘yes, I believe’. So find it back.”

And Marcus’s contract, is there any movement on that?
“When we have news, we will bring it immediately.”

Erik, this is the first of four games without Casemiro…
“We have already had many more games without Casemiro.”

Has what happened in those games, and I think it’s fair to say they haven’t all gone particularly well…
“We did really well without Casemiro, against Arsenal, the two against Leeds. I think we also did really well without Casemiro also at the start of the season. But I want to have Casemiro available, because he has a huge impact on our game.”

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Can you replace him like for like in that midfield? Is it just a case of slotting someone in there, or do you have to make allowances because he is a very unique player?
“Yes but as I said, we have also won many games without Casemiro. So he’s not available and then we have to do it with other players. And it’s about the 11, or let’s say the squad, to win this [game].”

You’ve got Sevilla, who’s obviously got a very, very good record in the Europa League. What is your thought on that?

“So we go back to Sevilla. As you say, they have a very good record. We have to be aware of it. So it's going to be tough because they are really experienced in the Europa League, winning it so many times. I don’t know their team now in detail so I have to focus on that. But, for me, the most important [game] is Fulham and I don't look forward to Seville because first we have an international break and then we have three Premier League games, so there is much time to focus on that. But, definitely, I think all the opponents who come to this stage of the Europa League are strong. You have to play your best football if you want to go through. It's definitely the case if you face Seville.”