Erik ten Hag could not hide his disappointment at Manchester United’s final placing in their Europa League group, although he has noticed some positives.
Manchester United have finished second in their Europa League group after beating Real Sociedad 1-0. They would have needed to win by a two-goal margin to overtake the Spaniards, who claimed top spot.
Indeed, Ten Hag’s side were unable to add to their opening goal, which was scored by young prospect Alejandro Garnacho after an assist by Cristiano Ronaldo.
In fact, Garnacho’s goal was to be their only shot on target in the entire match. As a result, they will have to navigate a play-off against one of the sides dropping down from the Champions League for the right to play in the round of 16.
With clubs like Barcelona and Juventus in the hat, Monday’s draw could generate a challenging tie for the Red Devils.
Hence, they might regret not being able to put more past Real Sociedad. That said, Ten Hag saw some positives from their win.
Ten Hag told BT Sport: “You don’t always get what you deserve. That’s always football.
“Today we win, so I’m happy with that. I’m happy with some other things, like the performance from Garnacho, Donny back in the team.
“I think we make a really good goal with Garnacho, some good chances as well first half.
“Of course we are disappointed we didn’t score two goals because that is what we needed.”
Garnacho’s goal was his first for the club on just his seventh appearance. It was also only his second start, but he made an impression.
Asked if he can now cause something of a selection headache, Ten Hag replied: “We need options and we have problems there.
“Antony not available, Anthony Martial not available, Jadon Sancho not available. So it’s thin.
“I’m really happy with the performance. I hope he can keep the process going.
“He was a threat, he scored a goal. He was reliable defending. So if he can keep this going, I’m really happy.”
Describing the winner further, he added: “It was a great finish, definitely. I think it was a great attack, over David de Gea, Bruno [Fernandes], Ronny [Ronaldo] and then the switch of play and then a great finish, it was really enjoyable.”
Erik ten Hag admits players were ‘too rash’ in response to tactical tweak
Ten Hag adjusted Manchester United’s tactics in the second half as they pushed for what would have been a decisive second goal.
However, it didn’t exactly click and he felt they became too “erratic” when forcing their chances.
Asked about the logic behind his tweaks, he explained: “To bring extra offensive players in.
“But I think in that moment we were a little bit too rash, too erratic. We weren’t that good on the ball any more, and so we bring less balls in the box.
“When you do this, you need to come in the box and that process didn’t work well.
“I think the last 10 minutes we get again the ball in the box and then we create also a good chance.
“But that was the idea. We have to take risk, that is what we did, and then keep the clean sheet, very well.”
There will be plenty for Ten Hag to reflect on before this competition resumes in the New Year.
Giving his concluding thoughts, the Dutchman said: “Of course we are disappointed – we want always to be number one and when we aren’t, we are disappointed.
“But I said to you some positives and also we have to take that from San Sebastian as well.”
Manchester United are next in action on Sunday when they visit Aston Villa in the Premier League.
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