Erik ten Hag ‘can’t be bothered’ with criticism of job he is doing at Man United

By Sports Desk April 20, 2024

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag “can’t be bothered” with criticism of the job he is doing at Old Trafford and claims he has only been able to pick his strongest team once in 18 months.

The Dutchman delivered an encouraging first season, winning the League Cup and finishing in the top four, but this campaign has been far more difficult.

They were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage and are in a battle to finish in the top six in the Premier League, with his position coming under scrutiny following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s minority purchase and takeover of the football operations.

United can salvage their season by winning the FA Cup and they aim to reach a second successive final when they host Championship Coventry on Sunday.

Ten Hag insists he shuts out the noise when it comes to speculation on his future.

“I don’t put energy into this, if I’m judged fairly or not,” he said. “I know what we are doing here, why I’m here, to bring trophies, to also create economic value, so we are working on those and in a process you have setbacks.

“I look at this and can see it realistically, so I see the nuance, some comments miss that, but I can’t be bothered about it, can’t go into emotions.

“I see it realistic, rationale, and I’m only focussing on my team, to improve the team and individuals. That’s what I’m here for.”

United have had injury problems to deal with and the Dutchman says the home win over Manchester City last year was the only time he had a full squad to choose from.

“I don’t have any concern about what is said on the outside,” he said. “What concerns me is that in 18 months I have never had my favourite team on the pitch in 18 months.

“That concerns me. Because the players are injured. One time (I could pick my strongest XI) was against City last season in the home game.

“That was the only time where we had a full squad, where I can pick my team and in all the other games there was always an injury aspect where we have to deal with.

“That is normal in football but not so many as we have had. And I know when we have so many injuries as we have had and on crucial key positions, you can’t deliver the results you want to bring and that is OK.

“But that is my truth. And others can have a different truth. But I can’t put energy in that.”

The man in the opposite dugout should provide a timely reminder to Ten Hag that fortunes in football can change in an instant.

Sky Blues boss Mark Robins is widely acknowledged to be the man who saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s job in 1990 when his third-round goal against Nottingham Forest ended a run of 11 games without a win.

United went on to win the FA Cup that year and the rest is history.

“Yes, I know (the story). In football, it’s sometimes like this, that a shot on the post or in the net makes a huge difference,” Ten Hag said.

“See 1966, eh? Only one time but it made them (England) world champions.”

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  • Ten Hag backs Rashford to use England omission as 'fuel' in FA Cup final Ten Hag backs Rashford to use England omission as 'fuel' in FA Cup final

    Erik ten Hag urged a "highly motivated" Marcus Rashford to use his England disappointment as "fuel" ahead of this weekend's FA Cup final.

    Rashford was omitted from Gareth Southgate's provisional 33-man squad for the upcoming European Championship this week, following a disappointing season in which he has scored just eight goals.

    The forward struck 30 times during the 2022-23 campaign, but has struggled to build on that momentum this term.

    Rashford will hope to feature at Wembley as United face rivals Manchester City in a repeat of last year's final, needing to win to ensure they do not miss out on European football for the first time in 10 years.

    And Ten Hag is backing the 26-year-old to respond to his setback in a positive manner.

    "He looks good," the United head coach said. "A career has ups and downs, and a down can also give you fuel and that is what I see in training.

    "So, he will be highly motivated. He is very talented and already has a big career, and I am sure he will get over this and make even more goals."

    One of Rashford's finer moments of the season came against City when he opened the scoring with a stunning 25-yard strike in a 3-1 defeat at the Etihad in March.

    Two months on - and at the conclusion of a difficult season blighted by injuries to several key players - Ten Hag believes United are in a stronger position to compete with their rivals.

    "At the Etihad, we were very good in the game for 70 minutes, and had opportunities to go ahead," the Dutchman added. 

    "They could substitute, but we didn't have the players on the bench. That is a big difference. On Saturday, we will have a bench and will have a much stronger side."

  • 'I don't want to think about Guardiola leaving City', Foden admits 'I don't want to think about Guardiola leaving City', Foden admits

    Phil Foden wants to continue enjoying working with Pep Guardiola, and will not "think too much" about the Spaniard potentially leaving Manchester City.

    Foden was named Premier League Player of the Year after helping City land a record-breaking fourth successive top-flight title, scoring two goals in their crucial victory over West Ham on the final day.

    Guardiola, whose contract is set to expire at the end of next season, hinted he may depart the Etihad Stadium, suggesting he was closer to leaving the club than staying.

    Foden has gone from strength to strength since coming through the City ranks and being handed his debut by the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss during the 2017-18 season.

    And the England international is focused on continuing to embrace making further strides with the 53-year-old at the helm.

    "I've not known any other thing apart from him," Foden told BBC Sport. "So, it'll be strange when he does go. I don't want to think too much about it. I want to enjoy the things we're doing now with him.

    "I feel like there's other managers out there who complicate it a little bit. The best advice he gave me this season was ‘don't try and be Phil Foden in every action’, and I feel like that advice really went a long way.

    "I believed in what the manager was saying. I believed in the process. When I wasn't playing, I knew there were better players in front of me. And I knew the more I grew up and the longer time that went, there'd be an opportunity for me."

    Foden was speaking ahead of the FA Cup final, in which City will face rivals Manchester United at Wembley for the second year running.

    The Citizens, who prevailed 2-1 12 months ago, are aiming to become the first English side to win the Premier League and FA Cup in successive seasons.

    "Last year, United didn't make it easy for us," Foden continued. "When it’s a derby, on your day, anyone can win, so it's something we have to look forward to and be at our best if we're going to win."

  • Orlando City v Columbus Crew: Pareja praises ever-growing Lions Orlando City v Columbus Crew: Pareja praises ever-growing Lions

    Oscar Pareja admires the fight Orlando City are showing as they prepare to welcome Columbus Crew to Inter & Co Stadium on Saturday.

    Orlando are unbeaten in their last three matches, including a late victory over San Jose Earthquakes last weekend.

    They are now within one point of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, sitting 10th on 16 points.

    Pareja praised his team for being able to hold onto results in recent weeks, but he now wants to translate that into consistent success at home.

    "I see a team that is growing," Pareja said. "Their confidence is growing.

    "The way we're playing is much better in terms of efficiency on the other side of the box, and we're proud. The thing that we're most happy with is seeing them try to do the right thing.

    "They've got through difficult moments together. The way they fight every single game is always the same. We're more knowledgeable now that we're getting results, but I haven't seen one game where they gave up.

    "Now we need to go and do it at home in front of our fans. Nothing has changed, we just haven't been very good in some home games, but we will be."

    Columbus sit five points above Saturday’s opponents, having won back-to-back games against CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire.

    Going into the third of their successive away matches, head coach Wilfried Nancy hailed the Crew’s spirit.

    "It's true that last year I didn't like the spirit that when we were playing away - it was not the same spirit," he said.

    "Now, they try to play their game home or away. This is something that for me, this is growth. This is something that has been better."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Orlando City – Pedro Gallese

    Gallese has kept clean sheets in two straight matches after Orlando managed just two in their first 11 regular season matches in 2024.

    The Lions have never kept a clean sheet in three straight league matches within a single season before.

    Columbus Crew – Diego Rossi

    Rossi managed a goal and two assists in Columbus’ win over Chicago last Saturday. It was his sixth MLS match with at least three goal contributions (including playoffs) but his first with the Crew.

    MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

    Orlando City have won just one of their first seven home matches this MLS season (three draws, three losses), with their six points won equalling the fewest they have ever recorded in their first seven home matches of a season (also in 2015).

    Meanwhile, Columbus have lost only one of their last eight away matches in MLS (four wins, three draws incl. playoffs), including winning their last two in a row on the road. The Crew have not won three consecutive away matches in the league since a four-match run between August and September 2015.

    Columbus knocked Orlando out of last season’s MLS Cup Playoffs with a 2-0 road win in the Conference Semifinals. That win was just the Crew’s second in their last 11 meetings with Orlando dating back to October 2018 (one draw, eight losses).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Orlando City – 34.5%

    Draw – 26.8%

    Columbus Crew – 38.7%

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