Every word: Erik's media briefing, part two

Thursday 05 January 2023 22:30

Talking points in part two of Erik ten Hag's pre-match press conference included the fitness of Jadon Sancho and the focus of Marcus Rashford, as the Manchester United manager fielded more questions on the eve of our Emirates FA Cup tie against Everton.

But the second part of the Dutchman's media briefing at Carrington began with a query about his compatriot, who was injured during Tuesday's 3-0 win over Bournemouth in the Premier League...

Erik, just on Donny van de Beek, do you know how long he's likely to be out for?
"Not yet. We are still doing investigations at the moment. It's a knee injury and at the moment we have it [the information] clear, we will bring it [to you]."
Is Martial okay for tomorrow?
"Yes, he's fit and available."
With Butland, is he going to be your number 2 or do you regard Tom Heaton as the number 2?
"I never work like that. We have now three goalkeepers who are all experienced. Okay they can be 1, 2 and 3 but it is quite clear that David at this moment, who has been a long time at Manchester United, is the clear number 1. But I think Tom, he was many times on the bench. He had bad luck when he was injured for the Carabao Cup, the first one against Aston Villa. Then Martin [Dubravka] was keeping and he did very well. Now the situation with [Jack] Butland coming in, I have to see his performance in training. But the Carabao Cup is coming quick and then we will make a choice. Tom is of course more adapted to our way of play and has more connection to the dressing room, to the team, but still I have a decision to make on Tuesday and also first tomorrow. But for me there is no issue."
Part two: Erik's pre-Everton press conference Video

Part two: Erik's pre-Everton press conference

Press conference part two | Ten Hag is asked about Jadon Sancho's potential return...

Erik, after good wins like the one on Tuesday, you often talk about what the team hasn't done. How much more do you think can come from this team, this season?
"Well, I think in a lot of aspects, there is space for improvement. It's about, in a lot of aspects you can get improvement, your process is better, your way of play is better and when that is better, your opportunity in games is higher. That is what we have to work for."

Just with Marcus, earlier you mentioned 'if he's 100 per cent in the game'. Is that what you think is missing, that he can sometimes wander out of a game and an opportunity can go?
"I was really happy with his goal, 3-0, against Bournemouth, so he stayed in the game, he scored in the game. Still he was focused and in the right moment, in the right spot, he was there to make his goal in that game. I said to him from the first moment, you will create chances or the team will create chances for you when you are in the right moment and the right spot. It will come every game but it can be the first minute and it can also be the 95th minute so make sure you are there and then you have the skills to finish. With his right, with his left, with his head, it doesn't matter what."
Erik, you're obviously down an attacking option at the moment with Jadon [Sancho] not being available to play. He's obviously back at Carrington, you have been clear that you would still like to strengthen your attack further. Is that going to increase the pressure on Jadon to come back into the fold and give you that extra attacking option? Do you really need him to come back and when do you see that happening?
"I would like to have Jadon back as soon as possible. But also in this, I can't force this process. So I will do everything that's in my power but some processes you can't force and this is one of them so I also have to show patience although I don't have the patience because yeah, you are right, we have a lack of opportunities in the front line. Players who are available and are capable to contribute in the Premier League. Not only the Premier League but also the highest standard of football and Jadon is one who, when he is fit, he will contribute and then we have an extra option so we have more chance to win a lot of games."

And now he's back at Carrington, have you been able to speak to him? And what do you see the hurdles or the issues he's got to cross?
"We have some hurdles to take but I think he is [going] in a good direction. I can't force this process so I will be really happy in the moment he is returning in the squad for team training - that will be the next step." 
Training highlights: Energised for Everton Video

Training highlights: Energised for Everton

Training highlights | The Reds are preparing to begin our Emirates FA Cup quest, against the Toffees...

He isn't injured, is he? He's just not fit enough you don't think? 
"In this moment he is not fit enough, no."

And you mentioned a mental aspect in the past that you think might be a problem?
"I said physical - and a bit of physical is also in connection with mental, but I think he is now making progress on the physical part and that will help him. I hope he can return quickly but I can't say a duration of how long it will be."
It's six years since Manchester United last won a trophy. I think you won the Dutch cup before you won the title, and Sir Alex Ferguson's first trophy here was the FA Cup before all of his success. How important can a trophy be in terms of being a launchpad for more success? And how important would it be to get that first trophy here?
"We have a lot of opportunities to win a trophy, we are still in many competitions and winning a trophy is something great. Every trophy to win is great. It will give you an experience that can help you win more titles and more trophies, and maybe also bigger trophies. That is definitely true. First, you have to go over that limit to get that experience - it's always the same, the same players always winning trophies and that is not a coincidence because that has to do with his capabilities and often with mentality."

You're confident this team, this squad, is capable of winning trophies?
"I think we have some players in this team who have that experience and who can help us."

Just one more on Jadon there, while you can't say when he is due back, can you say whether you feel from what you've seen and heard so far, he's got the benefit of his time in Holland? Do you think that physically and mentally he is showing signs of improvement? 
"You are saying the Netherlands but that process could also have been in England as well. But the good thing is, is that he is back in Carrington. So, he is making progress so he is ready for the next step."
How can a £75million forward at Manchester United, with all the facilities you have and all the experts, become unfit? How can that be allowed to happen?
"I think any top athletes, in football but also in any sports, sometimes it is good to go away from the place where you are at daily to get a new vibe, to get experience. People have a different approach and can give you the right push to get back on track." 

If you had 20 Jadon Sanchos who were all unfit, you'd be in trouble. I'm wondering why or how he became unfit in the first place if the club's job, your job, is to keep these players tip top?
"Football players are not robots. No one is the same and for everyone you need a different approach and we thought, in co-operation with Jadon, it was the best choice."