Erik ten Hag has criticised Manchester United’s attack and defence for not running in last Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Tottenham. The defeat followed a scrappy 1-0 opening-day win over Wolves as United have endured a stumbling start to the season. While Ten Hag believes his side were dominant during the early stages at Spurs, of his outfield players only the midfielders Casemiro, Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes were absolved of responsibility for the loss.
Instead, the Dutchman blamed his rearguard of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphaël Varane, Lisando Martínez and Luke Shaw, plus the front three of Antony, Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho.
“It is not about the midfield, it is about the back and the front,” said Ten Hag. “That is why we were open. They didn’t run. They run in the wrong moments, too late – especially the front. They didn’t recover. It happened, you can’t turn it around. It’s a demand here [to run] if you want to win games.
“For the first 35 minutes, we were so good. We totally dominated. We should’ve scored minimum once, I think twice. They were nowhere, nothing. And then things happened in the game and they got distracted, not doing your jobs any more. I’m not used to it from this team because they always do it. It’s what the fans can expect and what we demand.”
Of the flat first two displays Ten Hag said: “Those games, over the full course, we didn’t match the standards we had, but nevertheless we beat Wolves. We played a very good 35 minutes against Spurs, but the demand is that at Manchester United you do it 90 minutes. And you do it every game, no matter what.
“I told them [his players], I gave them the feedback that this is not acceptable, we have to do it as a team, do it with togetherness. Every individual has to take responsibility. We need accountable players.”
Ten Hag believes his players can accept criticism. “We are in the same boat. I am responsible for it – me as well,” he said. “We have to do that together and we have to face the fact that the first two games were not good enough but still we won one. We have a very good team, and we will win games, if everyone is doing their job.”
This week the club announced that Mason Greenwood will join another club – either on loan or permanently – after an internal inquiry into the 21-year-old striker’s conduct. Ten Hag denied the decision had left him short in attack. “No. Because we have, when I count, seven front players,” the 53-year-old said.
Those seven are Antony, Rashford, Garnacho, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial, Mount and Rasmus Højlund. Mount and Højlund are injured, though the latter will return to full training next week.
Shaw is also out for a few weeks due to a muscle problem and, with Ten Hag’s other left-back, Tyrell Malacia, also injured, United may move in the final week of the window to sign cover in the position.