Ten Hag vows to ‘restore’ Manchester United as Liverpool roll into town

A bullish Erik ten Hag has insisted he will “restore” Manchester United with the manager pointing to his record at his previous clubs Ajax, Utrecht and Go Ahead Eagles as evidence he can do so.

The Dutchman has lost his opening two United matches – against Brighton and Brentford, 2-1 and 4-0 respectively, with Liverpool visiting on Monday. Yet, despite this and the team’s insipid displays, Ten Hag struck a confident note.

“I’m here for the club and to restore the club,” Ten Hag said. “I knew before that this is a challenge and I wanted this challenge. I knew before it was going to be hard but I wanted that because in my career, everywhere I started, the start was difficult but I get it done, and I’m convinced I get it done here as well.

“Therefore I choose this project, I knew it’s a process and I will stay consistent to the philosophy and to the plan we had, and I keep confidence in the cooperation I have with the players and also the team around, the coaches and the directors.”

Ten Hag’s one season at Eagles – 2012-13 – finished with him taking the club back to the Eredivisie for the first time since 1996. At Utrecht, from 2015 to 2017, the team finished fifth and fourth. In five years at Ajax he claimed three Dutch titles and two KNVB Cups.

Following the Brentford defeat Ten Hag was critical of his players, saying they lacked spirit. He was asked if this was a gamble as they may become disaffected.

“No. I think every manager will demand it from his players and it’s normal. It’s your obligation to the club to fight and give 100%,” the manager said.

“One of the points as a manager is that you have to work on the attitude and mentality of the players. That’s what I’m doing. This is the first time since 27 June [when pre-season began] that I was not happy and not satisfied, and I told them.”

On the Sunday after the Brentford defeat he cancelled a day off for the squad. “I took the decision on Saturday – during the game, when I saw the performance,” Ten Hag said. “That is not the standard for Manchester United and actually it’s not my standard. We had to change that. I have to [tell] the team, the players what the standard is, that we don’t accept this.”

In recent seasons Liverpool have won every trophy under Jürgen Klopp. Ten Hag was asked what the gap is between his and the German’s side. “I don’t know if you can [say] that in football but what we have to do is: we know where we are now, we have to improve a lot, we have to work on our plan and not look at Liverpool,” he said.