Erik ten Hag is convinced “it is only a matter of time” until Manchester United show their “true selves” after a poor start to the campaign was compounded in the Manchester derby.
Sunday’s 3-0 home humbling at the hands of neighbours Manchester City provided the exclamation mark on a difficult start to the Dutchman’s second season in the hotseat.
United were outclassed and outthought for the most part at Old Trafford, where Ten Hag’s men will attempt to bounce back in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup fourth-round clash against Newcastle.
“At Manchester United, every game involves high stakes,” the Red Devils boss said ahead of the repeat of last season’s Carabao Cup final.
“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.”
Ten Hag’s comments came in his manager’s notes for Wednesday’s edition of the matchday programme, United Review.
Emotions will have been raw when producing the column in the aftermath of the City defeat but the Red Devils boss is only focused on improved performances and results.
“There is no point in feeling sorry for ourselves at this moment in time,” Ten Hag said.
“Nobody at this club enjoys defeat, particularly in a Manchester derby like last Sunday, 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.
“I continue to believe in these players and am confident we will improve after a difficult start to the season.
“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.
“Before the derby, we won three games in a row and demonstrated our character on each occasion, so we have developed in recent weeks.
“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.”
Injuries have been a key mitigating factor in United’s shaky start, with Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Amad Diallo ruled out of the Manchester derby.
Four of those played key roles in February’s Carabao Cup triumph against Newcastle – a day that has so far proven the high point of Ten Hag’s reign, rather than the catalyst for further success.
“As we welcome Eddie Howe and Newcastle United to Old Trafford, our focus moves back to the Carabao Cup and a reminder of how well we did to win this competition last season,” Ten Hag said
“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.”