Erik ten Hag has ordered Manchester United to perform like “robots” and said any player unable to meet his demand for relentless hunger is at the wrong club.
After the 2-0 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday, Ten Hag and Luke Shaw said Eddie Howe’s side wanted to win more. On Wednesday United host Brentford, having lost 4-0 in the August reverse fixture. That defeat caused the manager to haul the side in the next day to run 14 kilometres, the amount by which they had been outrun by their opponents, in a warning to the squad. Ten Hag was asked how eight months later his team could still lack desire.
“I agree we return to old habits but I also know there are fluctuations –persons are not robots,” he said. “But we have to act as robots, as machines. We have to expect and demand of our players that they match the standards so when we are not doing [that] we are disappointed because that is our job.”
Ten Hag believes they can be machine-like “because we have shown in so many games that we did it. It was a tough, very strong belief, confidence and passion and togetherness we have and have shown it in many games and big games. We have shown we can win the games but you have to do it in every game because that is the demand of Manchester United.”
He was clear what will happen if players do not hit the standards he demands: “When they can’t get it, then they are in the wrong place.”
The Dutchman was asked whether there will be ruthlessness in the summer regarding some players’ futures. “Let’s be fair,” he said. “I know how football is, talking in the emotion after one defeat, but we are in the right position [fifth on goal difference] and this squad is doing that. You can talk about deficits and every squad has deficits but I trust my players to give good performances and get best results. They have shown it so many times: Arsenal home, Liverpool home, [Man] City home [all victories], Barcelona twice [knocking them out of the Europa League].
“They can do it so don’t talk about what is coming after the season. I trust my players and they deserve it.”
Shaw has extended his contract, which was due to expire in June, to 2027. “Nine years ago I signed for this amazing club and I’m thrilled to be extending my stay,” said the left-back, who has made 249 United appearances.