Erik ten Hag was a happy man after he saw his Manchester United side battle to a fourth-straight win as they beat Arsenal 3-1 at Old Trafford.
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Ten Hag’s boys are scrapping every single game and those two defeats to open the season against Brighton and Brentford seem like a long, long time ago.
They weren’t. United’s shocking 4-0 loss at Brentford was 21 days ago.
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The reaction from Erik ten Hag’s side has been sensational since then and he’s gone back to basics with his players digging deep in a strict 4-2-3-1 formation with a solid back four and it is working with Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes pulling the strings in midfield to feed Rashford and Co. on the counter.
What did the Manchester United boss have to say?
Speaking to our partners in the UK at Sky Sports after the game, Erik ten Hag lauded his players for their spirit and fight despite Arsenal dominating large chunks of the game.
“You have to live every day high standards. That is my demand,” Erik ten Hag said when asked about the incredible turnaround at United. “I think also the players in our team have that demand. We have a lot of players who have won a lot of trophies and they have to bring that in the dressing room every day to get the best out of you and then you will even more improve.”
Asked about the game overall, the Dutch coach was happy with the way his team hurt Arsenal.
“Good team on the pitch, good team spirit. With the pressing maybe not always the good routines but they fight, they recovered,” Ten Hag said. “Arsenal created chances but we also did, especially on the break we scored great goals.”
“Worried is a big word. I know our defending line could deal with that. They have a lot of creativity and good routines. We could have done things better but it will come. We aren’t that long together as Arsenal have been. When we get that in we will be even more comfortable in the game. That is what we have to work for. That is hard work. Still a lot of room for improvement.”
Aside from the play on the pitch, it is the mentality that is impressing Erik ten Hag most.
“Even if the team gets a setback they deal with it and fight back and that is really good to see,” Erik ten Hag said. “This mentality, I like that.”
“Arsenal played well but we defended well. I never had the feeling they would break us with their good possession and lot of movement and creativity. We have a good defending line and we defend as a team with all 11. We can get better with pressing organization we can keep them further away from our goal, the same with in possession a little bit more composure on the ball. A little bit more switch of play to control the game even more. But we are not that long in the process.”
Special praise for Antony after his debut goal, as Rashford praises ‘togetherness’
Scoring a goal on his debut following his $100 million move from Ajax is exactly the way Antony would have wanted to start his Manchester United career.
He tracked back plenty of times on the right too and he took his chance when he got it. This is only the start, according to Erik ten Hag.
“I think we have all seen what a good threat he is,” Ten Hag smiled. “We missed the player on the right wing, like Jadon Sancho or Marcus Rashford, they prefer the center or the left. Now we have the one who can play on the right wing. That was the missing link. Today’s first performance here, he did well but I think he can step up. I know it is a different league but there’s the potential and he will be even be more of a threat for opponents than he was today. Great goal but all of the goals were team goals.”
That team togetherness is something Marcus Rashford pointed towards too, as the striker scored twice but said the key to this win, and recent turnaround, is pretty simple.
“Togetherness is the big thing for me. You only win these types of games if you’re a team. We had to be a team to be more ruthless and get more goals,” Rashford told Sky Sports.
What Erik ten Hag and his players have been able to do in just a few weeks’ of work has been absolutely mind-boggling. Now, can they keep it up? Can they keep improving?
It is still early days under Erik ten Hag but wins like this will convince everyone they are truly on the right path.