16 December 2023

Erik ten Hag knows some Manchester United players need a kick in the backside

16 December 2023

Erik ten Hag admitted players sometimes need a “kick in the a***” to get the best out of them as out-of-sorts Manchester United prepare to face rivals Liverpool.

This has been a challenging second campaign in charge of United for the Dutchman, with defeats in half of their 24 matches in all competitions putting his position under scrutiny.

Lifeless back-to-back defeats to Bournemouth and Bayern Munich did not help his cause, with injury-hit United falling well short of the standards they set last season.

When are you taking which approach? The kick in the a*** or arm around the shoulder?

The form of too many high performers has dropped off, with forward Marcus Rashford a prime example having scored 30 club goals last term and just two this season.

Asked what kind of approach he believes would get the best out of the forward, Ten Hag underlined the need to choose the right method for the right player.

“I think any player almost, sometimes it’s arm around the shoulder, sometimes a kick in the a***,” Ten Hag said.

“And then I think that makes a difference in the management, so when are you taking which approach? The kick in the a*** or arm around the shoulder?”

Ten Hag will be hoping United do not receive a collective kick in the backside at bitter rivals Liverpool.

The Red Devils were hammered 7-0 when they last visited Anfield in March and will be dealing with as many as 11 first-team absentees when they return there on Sunday.

“I always have (belief),” Ten Hag said. “When I go to any game, I have the strong belief I am going to win. I will prepare the team in that way – that we are going to win.

“And why? Because it’s based on our rules and principles in the game, and it’s based on our game plan and then a strong belief in the quality of my players.”

Pushed on what he has seen in particular ahead of Liverpool, he said: “I see the quality on the pitch, on the training pitch.

“But the only moment you have to prove it is in the games, isn’t it?

“This team proved this in certain games – when they have been under high pressure, they played very good football.

“But also we have our lows, so high highs and low lows, so we have to as a team get more consistent.”

Ten Hag and his side have under-performed massively after a promising first season, leading to questions about whether he has a long-term future at United.

The Glazers’ dithering and the protracted partial takeover of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s group has led to a state of flux, with the Dutchman saying he has not spoken to Ineos during their recent visits to the club.

“I can’t say anything about it,” Ten Hag said. “There are others in this club who are dealing with the strategic review, so I’m just waiting.

“I’m focusing on my job, which is performing with the team, developing the team.”

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