After Manchester United’s eventful League Cup win over Aston Villa, Erik ten Hag was quick to laud his players for following his ‘rules’ or ‘principles’ in order to win the game in his post match conference.
A game that looked at one point to be on a knife’s edge ended up as a comprehensive win for the Red Devils by a two goal margin, after some brilliant substitutions by Ten Hag.
The United manager, whilst quick to heap praise on the likes of Alejandro Garnacho for his influence on the game, was also quick to highlight the reason for winning was the players sticking to his principles of winning.
“In defending, rules are not ‘but’ or ‘if’ — I just demanded them to do it. In offensive positions, they are ‘principles’, so there is more freedom.” Said the Dutchman after the game.
He even referenced these rules in his preamble in the match programme, “Whoever is selected, they will have to stick to the rules of winning and the plan we set out in advance”.
This isn’t the first time Ten Hag has referenced these ‘rules’. He had this to say following the disappointing loss to Villa in the league: “We didn’t follow the rules defending, the players on the pitch have to win the game and if they do their jobs 100 percent, with passion and desire, following the rules and principles of football then we win this game.”
Speaking after the brilliant win over rivals Liverpool Ten Hag said: “I saw a team on the pitch, good organisation, fight for each other, following the rules.”
“There is always a journey that you have with your team and we started from the first day in pre-season to get that in…so every time a new player is in you inform them about the rules and then play together”.
It’s clear that the manager requires his players to be well drilled in these principles, and it’s clear that this hard work is paying off with every passing game.
Often when a team makes as many as seven changes in the starting eleven the play can become disjointed and lack fluidity. But despite a rather tepid first half United looked like they were all on the same page, with some crisp passing and the team looking organised.
In comparison, Villa, who also made seven changes, looked disjointed, especially when attempting to play the ball out from the back. One one occasion ‘keeper Olsen gave the ball away after a lack of communication, directly leading to a United goal.
The target this season is to get back into Europe’s elite competition via the top four, however the League Cup now presents itself as a realistic opportunity for silverware, which would really prove the benefits of following the rules of winning.
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