Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is convinced his struggling side will turn their season around – starting against Newcastle United in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.
Ten Hag’s side were outclassed and defeated 3-0 at home to Manchester City on Sunday and have now lost as many games as the seven they have won in all competitions this season.
“Nobody at this club enjoys defeat, particularly in a Manchester derby like last Sunday,” Ten Hag told the United Review, the official match programme, ahead of playing Newcastle.
“But everything we have achieved together so far has been built on looking forward, which means we have to move on quickly from what happens, whether it is positive or negative. We have never spent too long enjoying our victories, so we will not spend too much time thinking about our losses. We must always look forward, together.”
Manchester United and Newcastle United met in the final of the Carabao Cup in February, with Ten Hag’s side lifting their first trophy in six years – and preventing Newcastle from winning a first major trophy since 1969.
“I continue to believe in these players and am confident we will improve after a difficult start to the season,” said Ten Hag.
“On Sunday, in the first half particularly, we showed good defensive discipline and we created opportunities to counter-attack, but we were unable to capitalise on those chances at decisive times in the game. Important moments went against us and we were once again reminded that any mistake is punished at the highest level.”
United’s form had picked up before the derby, though performances from what has been an injury-hit side have been poor all season and the team are seven points off fifth and have only scored 11 league goals in 10 games so far.
“Before the derby, we won three games in a row and demonstrated our character on each occasion, so we have developed in recent weeks,” said Ten Hag. “We are also gradually getting some players back from injury, which gives us more options and allows us to select players in their natural positions.”
Both he and Newcastle boss Eddie Howe are expected to make significant changes for the League Cup fourth round game.
“Our focus moves back to the Carabao Cup and a reminder of how well we did to win this competition last season,” said Ten Hag. “Our game management throughout that cup run, especially in the final against Newcastle, showed our ability to rise to big occasions – and tonight is definitely another big occasion for us.
“We always want to do as well as we possibly can in every competition we enter. We know how good it feels to lift this trophy and, as holders, we want to get back to Wembley Stadium again this season and defend the Carabao Cup. Against a strong opponent, we know that we will have to be at our very best if we want to progress in this competition. This is cup football and there is no second chance if we don’t perform on the night.”
United’s only convincing performance this term came in the previous round of the League Cup at home to a weakened Crystal Palace. It will be a big game for both sides, with a 7,500 strong away following expected as part of a 72,000 sell-out crowd.
“At Manchester United, every game involves high stakes,” said Ten Hag. “Every single day, there is pressure on everybody involved with this club, but those demands and standards are a challenge which we must always meet head on. While this has not been the start to the season that we had all hoped for, I am certain that we have the talent and attitude as a collective to move in the right direction. I believe that it is only a matter of time before we are showing our true selves. It will come, I am certain.”