Ten Hag pushes Man Utd to play ‘nasty but smart’, admits ‘it will take months’ to get it right

Lewis Oldham
Ten Hag backs Man Utd

Erik ten Hag has suggested that he wants his Manchester United stars to play “nasty but smart” but “it will take months” to get it right.

The Dutchman has endured a tough start as manager of Man Utd. They lost their first two league games against Brighton and Brentford.

Man Utd then won four games in a row before they were torn apart by Man City last weekend. Erling Haaland and Phil Foden scored hat-tricks as Pep Guardiola’s side won 6-3.

United returned to winning ways against Neil Lennon’s Omonia Nicosia on Thursday but they did not do so without difficulty. 

The Red Devils face Everton this weekend. Ahead of this game, Ten Hag has encouraged his players to be “brave on the pitch”:

“I will give players trust. I will back them. When they work hard, when they give their best in training sessions, when they take responsibility on the pitch I will back them,” Ten Hag told reporters.

“But also we are united, our ambitions are really high, so you have to deliver.

“Every player in the squad has to take that responsibility individually and also in the team culture. That is the demand from us, from the coaching staff and the players. I expect from my players that they are brave on the pitch definitely.”

When asked if his United side need to be nastier, Ten Hag added:

“I know nasty. I think also in that manner we can progress. Also play a little bit more smart. We have too many bookings. I heard at the start that the Premier League, but we get so many bookings and I don’t understand.

“The first booking on Sunday (Diogo Dalot’s booking v Man City after two minutes) I really don’t understand. We want to play tough. We want to get the game going. Then in the second minute we get a booking. It was a duel, it was a foul, but get booked?

“I saw many other bookings and thought ‘is that necessary’. But I have to take it to the players to look in the mirror. They have to play smart but they also have to play nasty as well.”

Ten Hag also admitted that “it will take months” for Man Utd to have the right mentality:

“It is like a routine, a way of life and you have to bring it to every training session, in your system, as a squad and an individual player.

“When you have a lack of it in the last years. It is not something that your build or progress in a week or a month. It has to be in your system. It has to be. It is a demand in top football nowadays. It is quite clear [Manchester] City set the standard in that.

“There are more teams but we can deliver that. We have seen it against Liverpool and Arsenal but now we have to do it on a consistent basis. That is what we have to work for now. But it will not come overnight. It will take more than weeks. It will take months.”

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