Erik ten Hag 'really happy' with start to life at Man United but eyes more signings

Dutchman praises United's youngsters but no update on Cristiano Ronaldo's future ahead of match against Aston Villa in Perth

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Eric ten Hag spoke to the media on Friday ahead of Manchester United’s final pre-season game in Australia against Aston Villa in Perth.

Talking from the team hotel in the centre of the most isolated city in the world, he was asked about new signings and said: “We signed [Christian] Eriksen for the midfield, we are really happy with that. I am really happy with the performance of the midfield and offence at this moment. But I also know this season there are a lot of games, the World Cup, so we need more options, we have a good team, we need a good squad to get the right results at the end of the season.”

Several of United’s younger players have impressed on the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia. Asked about their prospects, Ten Hag replied: “We have a squad here and we don’t have a lot of time - we have to be ready for August 7. The squad here is defined in generations, we have experienced players, but also we wanted to give some young talents the chance, while they deserved it, to be here.

“I cannot give all young players the chances they maybe deserve because we have to construct a team but it is good to have them in, I see them daily in training, so I get a really good impression from them. From there on we can develop them by good plans, that is the idea. Not all youngsters have gained minutes, I have to set priorities, but in future they will play an important role, I think, for building Man United.

“James Garner just integrated in training this week, so I haven’t seen him. I don’t have, let’s say, fully an impression from him, I want to see more. Then I can answer the question and we will make conclusions and decisions. Hannibal Mejbri plays some minutes, he did quite well, in training as well. He gives a good impression but it is also to do with balance in the squad.”

Manchester United's Hannibal Mejbri in action against Crystal Palace. AFP

Are those youngsters ready?

“We have to wait, if that’s the case. I think they need some development. We are working day by day on that. It will not come overnight, it will take time, patience, young players. If they show they can have an impact I am the manager who will throw them in.

Ten Hag thinks they have done well but cautions: “I also know the standards of the Premier League and European football are really high. It is about – are they ready to take the responsibility, to play, to contribute? Are they conscious of bad situations? That is what I have to approve. I will take my decisions. They have potential, some players, is quite clear.”

Harry Maguire is United’s captain and he was booed by some of United’s support in the previous game in Melbourne.

“We heard but you see, if you perform, it slows down,” said Ten Hag. “The team and Harry Maguire impressed by the way we play.

"I don’t think it’s the manner to find out if I understand it [the abuse]. It’s about how can we change it. So it’s the team and Harry himself by performing. That is what we’re working on, that is the only focus.”

He is pleased by the way the front players have gelled on the tour.

“You see they connect really good together,” Ten Hag said of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho. “I think when you see that you are lucky as a manager, the team is lucky, we have a threat, we have weapons, and we have to improve that every day, to develop that.”

Cristiano Ronaldo may be added to those names, but Ten Hag had no update on his future. But he replied to a question as to whether he was concerned about shortage of options in attack, saying: “That is a reason, but also the number of games. You need more options in offence.”

So is it vital if the club adds players?

“I think it’s vital if you want to get success, the season is really long. But we also have still time to fill that in.”

Rivals have signed more players. Would Ten Hag like to have signed more?

“It is definitely an advantage we could have,” he said. “But we are not in that situation, then you have to deal with that situation, you have to develop the team with the players you have. That’s what we do. Back in Manchester Eriksen and [Lisandro] Martinez will join in, we have more options, I think they can quite quickly integrate into the team.”

What does he think about the distances United have travelled on tour?

“It is part of nowadays football, you have to accept it as a manager, as a team, you have to take the best out of it, that is what we did,” said Ten Hag.

“I think it’s great for team spirit to be so long together, you can really improve that, develop that, you have a lot of time to work on your team because you are so close together. That is great, I would say. It’s brilliant to be in great cities, Bangkok, Melbourne, Perth. There are disadvantages, it is clear, but you have to deal with certain things that are decided when you don’t have influence on. When you have influence it’s only on the game – that is our focus point.”

A sell-out crowd in Perth awaits United’s match against Villa.

“We have the intention to play brilliant football, only one thing, we have an opponent every time – and they don’t cooperate,” he said with a smile. “So first it’s about our philosophy, we want to play proactive football, attacking football, I know the opponent for tomorrow will be tough – it is great test. In that sense Perth is really lucky."

Updated: July 22, 2022, 10:05 AM
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