Manchester United stuttered to their 10th defeat of the current campaign against Newcastle at the weekend and pressure is being ramped up on manager Erik ten Hag.
It was yet another limp display, in a season littered with similar performances. Instead of throwing his players under the bus, like a few have done with him, the manager pointed to the gruelling schedule.
“We are not robots, if you play three games in six days, tough games and by the end the fatigue can be an issue, never an excuse but it is there.
“Against Galatasaray, and against Everton we played very good, against Newcastle we were not happy with our performance, We are the first to say, the players are the first, they are so self critical.”
ETH attacks media
In a season where the team has lost 10 games, many have questioned whether the players are still playing for the manager or not.
Ten Hag shot down such questions during the pre-match press conference before the Chelsea game and added that comeback win against Brentford and hard-fought victory against Fulham showed that the team had the character to come out of the current predicament.
“Oh yes, I am sure, you can see for instance the comeback against Brentford, the Burnley game, the Fulham game, every time the team is there, showed great character, great determination, resilience so we are together. You can see you can’t play such great football as we did recently without unity.”
The whole British media ecosystem has come down hard on the United manager, constantly attacking the Dutchman over his training methods while claiming players are revolting against the boss.
Three journalists, including serial offender Samuel Luckhurst of The Manchester Evening News, were banned from attending the press conference.
“They should have come to us first and not go behind our back printing articles that is not the right thing. We have a good relationship, they come to us beforehand, we have a debate about it,” Ten Hag retaliated.
On whether the stories were true, the former Ajax coach said, “No, of course there are always in every team players who are not playing who are not as happy, not different as normal, you have to wait for the chance and that can come, but there are no issues.”
Up next are Chelsea, who are themselves still struggling to adjust to new manager Mauricio Pochettino’s style of play.
United still on the right track
It will be yet another difficult test for United who currently look devoid of confidence with no discernible style of play.
But the manager was adamant that progress was visible, as can be seen from the team’s attacking displays against Everton and Galatasaray.
“Not in the dressing room. Of course there are a lot of rumours but it is not that we get distracted by it. We are on a journey, a route, we know we are in transition but we are in the right direction.
“We construct a team, develop it, the team is progressing, young players coming in and you see the potential how they can contribute to a successful Manchester United team for the future.”
United will play the Blues on Wednesday, hoping to turn their season around with huge fixtures against Bayern Munich and Liverpool on the horizon.