Ten Hag talks Manchester City, mind games, Guardiola and Erling Haaland ahead of tomorrow’s Manchester derby

Erik ten Hag has spoken to the press ahead of tomorrow’s Manchester derby. 

It is the 189th time the two Manchester sides have met in a competitive clash and tomorrow provides a lucrative opportunity for the Red Devils to strengthen their hold on the top four, as well as boost their pursuit of a potential title race.

A win tomorrow takes them to within one point of Manchester City in second place. The Reds also face Premier League leaders Arsenal next Sunday at the Emirates – another must-win clash.

Manchester United head into the match on the back of eight consecutive wins and a sequence of nine wins at Old Trafford, alluding to Ten Hag’s desire to make the stadium a fortress again.

Earlier today the manager issued an update on the fitness of two key United players; he confirmed that Diogo Dalot is injured, whilst Anthony Martial faces a race for fitness and will be tested in the morning to see if he is fit to face Pep Guardiola’s side at 12.30 pm.

This evening, the club announced the loan signing of Wout Weghorst. The forward will be a Red until June 2023, however, he has not been registered in time to feature in tomorrow’s match.

Ten Hag’s press conference

Speaking to MUTV (transcribed by the United website), the Dutchman answered questions from the press. Here are his key talking points.

Q. “Erik, you said after the 6-3 [loss to Manchester City in October] that the team wasn’t brave enough. Is that the message tomorrow to your players? Be brave, be bold…”

“Yes, [that’s the message] but important is how [we are brave]. What means brave? Always, it’s a way of play. In possession, you give each other options, scanning in the right moment the situations, taking the right decisions, go forward where it’s possible, defending, be [on the] front foot. That is brave. As a team, act with togetherness, the same ideas in every situation. That means braveness.”

Q. “In your time with Pep, what did you learn from him?”
“There’s too much to tell [laughs]. It’s a lot. It’s too short to bring in 30 seconds, to tell that.”

Q. “The best bit?”
“Be proactive. Football is about results. Top football is about results. But you want to do it in a certain way, a way of proactive adventure and also entertain. Top football is about winning but also entertaining the fans. You play football for the fans, top football.”

Q. “Erik, you say you feel you have made huge progress, do you still feel this is some way behind Manchester City? Or do you now feel able to challenge them?”
“I don’t want to compare, it’s about us.”

Q. “You play them tomorrow…”
“Of course. If you want to win trophies, you have to be able to compete with the best and City are the best. We are looking forward to challenging them.”

Q. “Do you think there is still a big gap between them and you?”
“We will see tomorrow.”

Q. “I don’t know if you saw, but in the week Pep Guardiola said about using some “ridiculous” tactics in the game tomorrow. Sir Alex Ferguson before big games used to call them mind games, do you care about that kind of stuff?”
“I don’t care about that, what he is thinking. You know, he did [tactical surprises] more often and we are prepared for that, if he does different things. We have our rules, our principles from football.”

Q. “Ahead of tomorrow, Haaland is an exceptional striker but with [Lisandro] Martinez, you’ve got quite a combative defender there. When he came up against Mo Salah earlier in the season, he seemed to unnerve him. Given how Everton tried to unsettle Haaland the other week, would you encourage those kinds of tactics?”
“It’s clear, he’s [Haaland] a really good player. But also, we have really good players. I’m convinced our players are good enough to compete with all the players from Man City.”

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