Erik ten Hag has denied that being Manchester United manager is an impossible job and called for cool heads in the fight to arrest alarming early-season form.
United have lost six of their 10 competitive matches and play Brentford on Saturday in danger of suffering three successive home league defeats for the first time since February 1979, having been beaten by Brighton and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag broke a six-year trophy drought by leading United to the Carabao Cup last season, with the team also finishing third in the Premier League and reaching the FA Cup final. Louis van Gaal and José Mourinho, two of Ten Hag’s predecessors, arrived with greater experience and having claimed more honours than Ten Hag but failed to make United title contenders. Ten Hag denied this indicated that managing United was futile.
“It is the wrong way [to look at it],” he said. “We are in a bad place, but then you have to fight. Everyone has to realise that we are there and that you have to fight together and be on one page in every occasion. It’s patience and a cool head [required]. We stick together and focus on what it is about and that is the way to play.”
Ten Hag cited Tuesday’s 3-2 home Champions League defeat by Galatasaray in which United twice went ahead. “The last game was a good example. We were for 23 minutes on one page, we scored a goal [on 17 minutes] and then in one split second we were not on one page. It was the first shot the opponent got and it went in. You can’t allow it in top football. It is about moments and details, isn’t it? Opponents will always benefit from it, so we can’t allow them the small details.”
Ten Hag is not concerned that last season’s success means there are unrealistic expectations. “We know we are still in transition as a club but in the meantime we know we have to win every game,” he said. “We don’t walk away from that, not this team, not these coaches and not this manager. I am responsible for having the right mentality. I give my 100% effort every day to get that in.”
• This article was amended on 7 October 2023. In an earlier version, a subheading said United had lost six of their 10 “Premier League games”, when this should have referred to all competitive games this season.