The embargoed section of the pre-match press conference ended up drawing Erik ten Hag’s ire somewhat, with the manager not appreciating the lack of questions about the West Ham game. Nevertheless, it threw up some interesting titbits.
“What I have heard around me, when I see the fight in the dressing-room, it’s not like we are satisfied with this,” Ten Hag said of the Carabao Cup win.
When asked if he believed the United squad could cope with their upcoming demands, Ten Hag said.
“In my experience in Ajax, when we dropped out of Europe the levels went down and when you are in it gives energy, Yes, I think. Until now, we have managed it quite well and I think we can do until the end of the season.”
Ten Hag also gave an injury update, saying, “I’m happy. Except Anthony Martial, the availability from all the players is there.”
He was also happy with his players’ attitude.
“Mentally, they are really ambitious, that is one thing and that gives energy. Second, we have the type of players who can handle the load, the physical load.”
The manager addressed concerns of post-trophy complacency and challenged his players to avoid that trap, saying, “Of course, the players have to take responsibility for that first. They have to take responsibility for their performance. But I can’t see that [a drop in levels happening]. It’s a trophy but it’s not the end of the season.”
“What I have heard around me and when I see the comments… when I see the fight in the dressing room it’s not like we are satisfied with this. We want to do better. That is quite clear. So it’s inspiring and it’s not the end – definitely not.”
Anthony Martial has struggled for fitness and remains unavailable, but Ten Hag is hopeful the Frenchman will be back before long.
“I hope [he can return before the March international break] but I won’t give a prospective [time], or an expectation about that. Let him do his work, as several times now, he has been back and he drops back too quickly.”
“We [have to] give him the time and I hope he is on board but first, in this moment, we are doing really well in this set-up. When he is available, we will have another option, a good option.”
“Let’s give him [Martial] the time and we will see when he is back. Then we will be happy because we have a quality option extra for the rest of the season.”
Wout Weghorst was brought in to cover for the oft-injured Martial and the manager was asked if he was interested in signing him, as well as Marcel Sabitzer, on permanent deals, to which he replied, “I think it is much too quick [to decide]. [It is] much too soon to talk about that. First, we are in this season and that is where the focus has to be. No distractions.”
Some very optimistic fans have been mentioning a possible quadruple, but the manager was dismissive, saying, “That is too far ahead. We have to focus on the next game. We are now talking about the Premier League, but I didn’t hear the word West Ham. This is the press conference for West Ham, so it is only about that. That is all we have to talk about.”
The inform man at United had been Marcus Rashford and the England star has played a number of games, but when asked if he needed a rest, Ten Hag was dismissive. “Does Marcus Rashford need a rest? No, he is fit.”
Another player often called upon, Bruno Fernandes, should also have no issues. “He does, but he likes to play. He doesn’t want to miss anything.”
“Game by game,” is how United will be taking the FA Cup, with no thought of whether or not the Red Devils are favourites. “I think it was the press conference for West Ham United so it’s only about this we have to talk about.”
United are the only English side left in four competitions, including the one they have won but on the prospect of winning four trophies Ten Hag said, “That is for fans. We have to focus on the next game and that is the only thing we are doing. We are talking for 10 minutes, and I didn’t hear the words West Ham United.”
The Dutchman was clearly frustrated by the line of questioning, which was taking focus away from the FA Cup match.