Erik ten Hag says Manchester United’s mistakes allowed them to get “hammered” by rivals Manchester City in a 6-3 loss at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Ten Hag’s visitors weren’t even as good as the score line, as Phil Foden and Erling Haaland scored hat tricks to give City a 6-1 lead and Pep Guardiola subbed liberally with the game well in hand.
Antony scored United’s first goal to make it 4-1 for a few moments, and Anthony Martial came off the bench to bag a brace in the final few minutes of the match.
Ten Hag appeared distressed at times, and the manager has been criticized for trying to import his system on the game against a stylish and sound Man City powerhouse.
Erik ten Hag reaction after Manchester derby blowout loss.
Ten Hag says he told the players that what he saw at the game was a matter of disbelief.
Some early post-match video seems to have reinforced his thoughts.
“Lack of belief,” Ten Hag said. “I have seen some highlights. It was obvious we are defending not on the front foot, we let them play. In possession, we were not brave enough, made tactical mistakes, decision mistakes, and then you get hammered.
“They showed against Liverpool and Arsenal: When they perform as a team, when they bring the belief on the pitch, starting individual, we will show them and you cannot deny. In the last five games, we bring that attitude on the pitch, a strong belief, convincement, we bring opponents problems. Today, it was the other way around.”
“It’s normal in our process that pattern has to go up and I think I see clearly it goes up and we have setbacks during that process and we have to learn from it but point it clearly out. We can walk away from it but if we do it we won’t get the solution. So we will do it, we will be very clear and we have to move on and carry on to the next game.”
City beats a lot of teams by a lot of goals. United’s resolve to keep fighting while being, essentially, clobbered by their derby rivals should say something to the boss. But Ten Hag wants better and he says he sees what’s wrong.
In a separate interview, Ten Hag claimed that Sunday’s 4-0 start was different to the same score line posted by Brentford against Manchester United over 45 minutes.
“This is definitely different. We didn’t run there. We wanted to today but didn’t follow the priniciples. It was a lack of belief. I will show the team that we could have been front-footed. We win the ball then give it away for the first goal. We take wrong decisions in the transition afterwards. We don’t follow the rules so we are undisciplined. It cannot happen. It is unacceptable.
“It is a process. It is one game. Maybe against other teams the problems would not come but against Manchester City they will. I want to change the head and attitude from the team. There was a reaction in the second half. We were more brave and scored three goals. Only from mistakes you learn.”
Ten Hag was criticized for his team selection in some parts — this writer included — but convincing the players there were spaces to go toe-to-toe with City will require a real Masterclass. Maybe he should tape the tape!
He’s a heck of a manager and a good bet to fix what ails United, but Ten Hag surely knows that his Manchester United was not set up to succeed on Sunday. That makes twice early this season, as the growing pains continue at Old Trafford but the silver linings are present as well.