What does Erik want to achieve in Spain?
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has been outlining what he wants to achieve from the club’s winter training camp in Spain.
The Reds are a couple of days into a week-long stay at our Andalusia base, with friendlies against Cadiz and Real Betis on the horizon. Those games will be played on Wednesday (19:00 GMT) and Saturday (17:00 BST) respectively and will be shown exclusively live on MUTV, ManUtd.com and the United App.
With much of the first-team squad still away at the World Cup with their nations, the training group in Spain blends youth and experience but Ten Hag has his sights set on building towards the season restart.
United face Burnley in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford on Wednesday 21 December and Ten Hag wants the young players who have been included in the Spain camp to show him what they can offer.
“It's the normal objectives for every training camp but certainly to get back into the rhythm of the game,” Ten Hag told Danny Webber, as part of our in-depth interview in Spain.
Ten Hag in Spain | Watch part one
In part one of our Q&A, Erik lists his aims for the training camp, previews our friendlies & reviews the World Cup...
“So first, fitness levels and then second, the way of playing. But we are here with a mixed team, so I have to talk about several objectives.
“We have a lot of young players with us as well and they have to support us but they can show us what they have to offer, what their capabilities are and what their potential is and if you can use them, if they have a future.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for them. Normally we don’t have this break and now we have this break. Many players are at the World Cup, so there are positions available and they [the young players] can get used in these positions.
“They can show themselves and they can challenge players who play in the Premier League, so it’s fantastic for them.”
It’s been over three weeks since United dramatically drew the curtain on the first portion of the campaign, with Alejandro Garnacho’s late goal at Craven Cottage giving us all three points against Fulham.
Therefore a further aim for our manager is to give the squad a level of fitness on which we can look to build and maintain our challenge for the Champions League positions, with United currently placed fifth in the Premier League table, three points behind Tottenham Hotspur but with a game in hand.
“[It’s] not [just] to keep fit, [it’s] to get fitter and to improve in the fitness levels. If we see the season so far, especially in the front line, we didn’t always have the players available,” he added.
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“When they were available, they were not always capable of being at the right fitness levels to compete.
“This is an important objective: to fill that gap, to close that gap and that we are better after the winter, in the restart. To be better and to compete and to match the fitness levels in the Premier League and in the top four.”
While the cup clash with Burnley will be our first competitive game after the break, the focus now is firmly on the two friendlies against Spanish opposition. Ten Hag believes both of them will provide a solid test for his group of players.
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Our first winter friendly is live on MUTV this Wednesday night - here's everything you need to know about the game.
“I think they are two good opponents playing in La Liga, which we all know is a good competition, so we know it’ll be a challenge in both games,” said the manager.
“Cadiz played against Real Madrid in their last game and only lost 2-1, so we know it’s a tough opponent. And Betis also, we know, it’s a really good opponent, so we are really looking forward to working on our way of play.
“As I said, it’s a good challenge and a fantastic opportunity to show themselves.”
The two friendly matches will be shown live on MUTV, which can be accessed via the Man Utd App on the iOS App Store or Google Play Store, on ManUtd.com or via the following connected TV platforms: Samsung Smart TVs, Android TV, LG Smart TVs, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV and Xbox.