Ten Hag reveals one change Man Utd must make to become a ‘top team’; explains plan for the World Cup

Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag Credit: Alamy
Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag Credit: Alamy

Erik ten Hag explained how Manchester United can make themselves a ‘top team’ following their 4-2 Carabao Cup win over Aston Villa, while also detailing his plan for the World Cup.

Both teams made seven changes after Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa in the Premier League at the weekend. They played out a dull first half which included few clear-cut chances.

Diogo Dalot sent a header just over the crossbar in the 24th minute. Scott McTominay later reacted quickly to head a Douglas Luiz corner off the line as it was heading towards goal.

Those were the only real notable moments in the first half. Luckily for both sets of fans, the game burst into the life early in the second half.

Jacob Ramsey drove forward from midfield and sent Ollie Watkins through. He took a couple of good touches before delightfully clipping the ball over the onrushing Martin Dubravka and into the net.

Villa’s lead lasted a matter of seconds though as Man Utd went straight down the other end and scored. Dalot sent Bruno Fernandes off down the right flank and he put the ball across for Anthony Martial, who had a simple finish.

Unai Emery made three substitutions in the 59th minute, bringing Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Tyrone Mings on. And Bailey made an instant impact.

Villa engaged in some nice build up play before Ashley Young clipped a cross to the back post. Bailey headed it back across goal and Dalot was the unlucky player to hit it into his own net, restoring Villa’s lead.

The visitors were once again pegged back though when Mings slipped at the crucial moment, allowing Rashford to hold off Calum Chambers and finish into the bottom corner.

Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay score in Man Utd victory

And Man Utd took the lead for the first time in the 78th minute when Robin Olsen gave the ball away, allowing Man Utd to pounce. Alejandro Garnacho set up Fernandes and the Portuguese’s effort deflected in off Mings.

McTominay crashed a shot against the crossbar in the 89th minute and got on the scoresheet in stoppage time by connecting with a brilliant Garnacho cross. That capped off the 4-2 Man Utd victory.

During a post-match interview with Sky Sports (via BBC Sport), Ten Hag said: “Our two halves are never the same. We controlled the game in the first half by good pressing, we won a lot of possession but then did the wrong things. Bad in transition, missing the pass, one step too late passing in behind so we missed a lot of opportunities.

“We were sloppy and had some corners against us. At half time we said keep the pressing but be more direct. I’m proud of the team we could do that, we are happy tonight.

“They [Aston Villa] play with a high line so you have to pass the ball behind and we were quite successful in the second half. The problem in the first half was that we had too many touches and missed the moment that’s why we brought Christian Eriksen on.

Ten Hag admits to being ‘mad’ on Sunday

“Happy with that resilience. That’s what we need and have to show every game, I was so disappointed and mad on Sunday because we didn’t fight. We were sloppy, especially in the defence and United players always have to show 100% discipline.”

When asked about the season so far, Ten Hag explained how Man Utd can catch up with rivals Man City and become a ‘top team’.

“Quick game, intense game [in England]”, he admitted. “What we have to do better, we have to play football at a high intensity because that’s what the top teams do.

“We have made a step in the right direction but we have to find the moments to get more composure on then ball and find the moments where we can speed up. We are in the right direction but still a long way to go.”

Attention then turned to the World Cup. On Man Utd’s plan for the tournament, the Dutchman said: “We continually analyse and reflect, now we have a bit more time. We can go a bit deeper and we will do that and see where we can improve.”

Marcus Rashford reveals Man Utd plan

In an interview with Sky Sports, Rashford spoke about how Ten Hag wanted his team to get in behind the Villa defence.

“It was a game of two halves,” the Man Utd ace admitted. “First half it was not great in possession so it was similar to the other day. The second half we played with a lot more confidence.

“They hold a high line, no defender likes to run backwards – it’s pretty simple, we want to get in behind them. Both times we went behind we responded quickly and it is a massive shift in energy.

“Balls diagonally from full-backs or from the middle to wide positions are always on, the second half we managed to time our runs a bit better.

“My aim is to enjoy my football and at the moment I am. If I am scoring goals and winning, then I am happy! I try to end up in a place for the goal. I would say I am more comfortable on the wing, back to goal I need to improve a lot on that.”

When asked about making England’s World Cup squad, Rashford added: “It was just this morning [when I found out]. If you are performing at United then England will be round the corner. It will be a massive month for us, I am looking forward to that.”

Meanwhile, Man Utd have been given a boost amid claims one of Fulham’s most influential players will miss their league clash this weekend.

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