Erik ten Hag 'proud of the spirit' at Manchester United

Manager lauds team's performance against City in FA Cup final and also throughout the season

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag consoles Casemiro after the defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday, June 3, 2023. AFP
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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag was disappointed after losing Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester City, yet saw many positives from his team's performance in the game and from the 2022-23 campaign.

United had a respectable season that included winning the League Cup and a third-place finish in the Premier League, which ensured their Champions League qualification for next season.

For Ten Hag, in his first season in charge, it was a commendable effort throughout, including in the FA Cup final.

“We demanded everything from City, against the best team in the world and I think we did very well,” the Dutch manager told India’s Sony Sports.

“We stopped them playing football. We had our opportunities, we came back from a goal down and … we could have made the equaliser with the chances from Garnacho and Rashford and in the end with the headers. So I’m happy with the performance of my team and I’m proud once again how we played out of possession and also the spirit in the team.”

Andy Mitten's hot take on FA Cup 2023 final

Andy Mitten's hot take on FA Cup 2023 final

Asked how he felt about City’s goals, both from Ilkay Gundogan and scored after 12 seconds and six minutes after half time, Ten Hag replied: “It feels bad of course because they were soft goals. Avoidable. They don’t create anything – or almost anything – from open play but then to concede two soft goals is disappointing.”

United have made progress under their new manager, who arrived from Ajax Amsterdam a year ago. But how far does he think his side are from being a title-winning one?

“We have a way to go and we know that,” said the 53-year-old. “Once again we have seen against the best team of the world that we can make it really difficult to play us. That’s the next step. Compare our performance at the Etihad at the start of the season (where United lost 6-3) with the one at Old Trafford (United won 2-1) so we already improved. It was not a coincidence that we won at Old Trafford.”

Still, he is pleased with this season. When asked how he would rate it, Ten Hag: “A big compliment to the team, to the staff, to the fans. It was a fantastic season for us. We finished third, we won one cup, we had 42 wins (in all competitions), that is only one less than Manchester City and that was today.”

United’s next game is a friendly against Leeds United in Oslo on July 12.

Updated: June 05, 2023, 1:54 PM