‘We have to improve’: Ten Hag ‘can’t deny’ Man Utd ‘mentally’ struggle to respond to ‘setbacks’

Jason Soutar
Erik ten Hag sat on the bench

Erik ten Hag has urged his players to show they are good enough to play for Manchester United after Thursday’s embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Sevilla.

United crashed out of the Europa League this week following the 5-2 aggregate loss to the La Liga side.

David de Gea and Harry Maguire have both received a large amount of criticism for their role in the heavy second-leg defeat.

Ten Hag is adamant De Gea will remain his No. 1 goalkeeper with the Spaniard expected to agree a new contract before the start of next season.

The Red Devils will need to immediately bounce back ahead of Sunday’s huge FA Cup semi-final against Brighton.

Defeat at Wembley would make this the worst week of Ten Hag’s tenure at Old Trafford.

The Dutch manager spoke to the media on Friday evening and admitted that his players have struggled to deal with setbacks this season – which they will need to do against the Seagulls.

“We can’t deny it, it’s mental, definitely, we have to learn that you keep going, you carry on,” Ten Hag said.

“This team what they can do very well is bounce back in between games, what they can do less is bounce back during a game to a setback. That is what we have to improve.”

Ten Hag added: “I always think about do I refresh, I have a squad, but also I know that this season, we had bad defeats, bad performances, we bounce back.

“I’m convinced we can do again, we have the experience.

“You have to acknowledge, it’s the truth, we have to do better, I know that.

“I have to reach the players to do better in such circumstances, we deal better with such expectations, the demands on this team.

“We are Manchester United, they are high, we have to improve it, I have to reach the players and they have to step up.

“In this moment I don’t think about the summer, I’m thinking about improving this team and these players, that’s my job with the coaching staff and the players.

“We have all our focus on this process and not on other processes, that will distract you.

“I know this group of players can do better, they’ve proved it so many times this season, we’ve made huge progress during the season but we have steps to go.

“We have a lot of games to play and occasions to prove it.”

Thursday’s defeat was another night to forget for Maguire, and Ten Hag has backed his captain, saying he sets an “example” to his teammates.

“He has an important role, he is the captain,” the former Ajax boss said.

“He leads and he communicates with the manager, motivates the team. He’s the example in the training space.”

Maguire could play a big part between now and the end of the season with Lisandro Martinez out, though the English international is likely to leave at the end of the season.

With the futures of Maguire, Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek and many others up in the air, Ten Hag was asked if some players are now playing for their future at Old Trafford.

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He replied: “I think we always playing for our future as professional players.

“Every game is a test, every season is a test, you have to earn the right to wear the shirt. It’s for me as a manager. We are in the same boat.

“During the season we make huge progress. We have the experience but we have a way to go.

“A good thing is Sunday is a huge opportunity, semi-final of the FA Cup, a better event you can’t imagine, after that a lot of great games to go, we have to prove it and this group of players has to prove it.”

On expectations in the FA Cup and Premier League, Ten Hag continued: “I think they understand, but if not it’s time to be aware of it, it’s great to be part of Man United, to be part of this football club, but the flip side is you have to prove it every game.

“That’s what we have to acknowledge and be aware of it, you need to prepare every game for the fight.”

The Dutch manager also said he has faith in the club’s structure ahead of the summer transfer window.

“Oh yes, I have,” he said.

“It’s not why we are here, we are here to prepare Brighton and get the best out of this group of players. That’s where my energy and focus is.”

Ten Hag says he has not punished the squad with running and that the quick turnaround means they will begin their preparations for the Brighton match on Friday night.

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