Every word from Erik's press conference: Part two

Friday 29 September 2023 22:30

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag believes competition for places in his squad is essential to achieving the best results this season.

Whilst completing the second part of his media duties at Carrington, the boss discussed a whole host of different topics, with midfielder Hannibal's recent form a particularly popular topic.

The Tunisia international has started both of the Reds' recent victories against Burnley and Crystal Palace, and has forged his way into Ten Hag's thinking for Saturday's clash with the Eagles in the Premier League.

Erik also discussed Lisandro Martinez's setback earlier today and below you can both read, and watch, everything he had to say...
Part two: Press conference v Palace Video

Part two: Press conference v Palace

Ten Hag talks competition for places and Hannibal, while also providing further details on Licha's setback...

Erik you seem to have a shortage of defenders or a lot of them out at the moment. Are there any defenders in the Under-21 team or the Academy that you are looking at that could come into the squad now?
“No, not in this moment. I think in the centre-back positions, we don't have problems, it is more in the full-back positions we have the problems.”

Is that an issue with the Under-21s' results? They have had a tough time of it recently in the last couple of games, or do you not think the quality is there?
“You see we have so many players or so many people that could play in the Under-21s, that could also play [for us]. Dan Gore for instance, Omari [Forson] is always training with us, he played in that game but he did very well in pre-season. [Facundo] Pellistri, [Alejandro] Garnacho are all players who could play in the Under-21s.”
Hi Erik, the last two games and two victories have coincided with Hannibal coming into the midfield, I think it was against Burnley he ran 12.9km, more than any of your players this season. How impressed have you been with him and what does his contribution and message send to the rest of the squad? He has taken his chance and shown that industry and really grasped that, but what does say to the rest of the squad?
“I think he gives a very good message to the rest of the squad, that this is the demand and this has to be the standard. When you are playing that position, [this is] what you have to bring to the team to get success. Especially when you are playing against possession teams, he is a really good fit and can give a good contribution to a good performance and to a result.”

Are you surprised at how quickly he has adapted to the first team? I think that was only his second Premier League start against Burnley?
“I don't think it is that quick because before I already came here he was already in the first team. He made his debut and, last year, he was on loan, so this year he is making progress. That's why he deserved an opportunity and he has now taken the opportunity. As I said previously on former questions, every time he has to improve and he has to give the evidence that he deserves to play and that goes for everyone and every player in the squad.”
Hi Erik, on a similar sort of a topic to Hannibal, he only got into the squad because of injuries which was unfortunate, but are some players better in matches than they are in training? Do they show more in competitive games? Him coming in and taking his chance, I would have thought he would have been in the squad earlier, or is that just how it works sometimes that you have to wait, even though you are very good because there are so many good players ahead?
“There are situations where players are just ahead, but it is good that the internal competition is there. Hopefully, it gives other players a push that they have to bring more, they have to add more. He did a great job for the team and he really contributed to our levels in the last two games.”

He seems to have a bit of aggression about his game, a sort of winning attitude. Is that something you maybe miss but would like a little bit more of that aggression?
“I think the approach and attitude from the whole team was different in the last two games.”

Just on that subject there, is it important for you that no matter the name, in the past with Manchester United, the name and the transfer fee looks to have demanded places in the recent past. Does that not matter to you? If these young lads like Alejandro [Garnacho] and [Facundo] Pellistri do the business, they can stay in and is that the message you give them?
“That's definitely the truth. I don't look at status, I look to the performance. What the players are bringing. Players have credit but not too long. Every time - let's say this - you are as a good as your last game. When you don't bring the performance in a couple of games in a row, then it is possible [that] when you get players in, we can now talk about how they can take over positions. Also on their own account, they have to show it. I am not a manager who has concerns about bringing players in and we have seen from the first two games of the season, as I started Garnacho.”

Every word from Erik’s press conference


See the first part of Ten Hag’s Friday media briefing, ahead of United v Crystal Palace in the Premier League.

Coming back to Antony, how is his state of mind at the moment? Are you confident he won't be distracted by the claims as they are quite serious accusations against him?
“I can't tell in this moment. First, he has to be back.”

Have you not spoken to him over the past couple of weeks?
“Yes [we have] spoken, but it doesn't give the impression of how he is and how his mental status is.”

Can you say whether, going forward over the next week, assessing his mental state will be important for Antony before he comes back?

“It is only hypothetical. With the statement, and for today, we have to keep away and stay away from all the discussions.”

Official statement on Antony


United explain that the Brazil international is returning to training.

On Lisandro, it said in the statement that he initially suffered the injury again against Arsenal and then he played against Brighton and Bayern. Was that simply because he told you he was fit to play? You didn't take a risk to play him in those games and now it has backfired with him being out for a bit, did you?
“So we did a proper diagnostic, but [they also did] in Argentina as well. Now it [has] came out that there was a problem, that's very sad, first place of course for Licha, but also for the team because he wasn't 100 per cent fit. I think it was a big difference that Licha Martinez played in those [last two] games as it wasn't [the] Licha Martinez we have seen in the first season here at Manchester United. He will add to the team but not only that, he is a strong contributor to our levels. If already one player drops a level, then also the team performance levels will be lower.”

Erik, people will look at the Antony situation and see him back in team training after some serious allegations, but then, on the other hand, you have the Sancho situation where he has broken club rules but he is not part of that group. How do you explain the difference in the handling of those two situations?
“Those issues are nothing to do with each other. Nothing. One is internal, the other is external.”