Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has dismissed the idea he’s concerned about the security of his job ahead of the trip to Liverpool. Ten Hag returns to Anfield where his team suffered the ignominy of United’s heaviest ever Premier League defeat last season.
United headed into the match in March fresh from winning the Carabao Cup and reaching the Europa League last 16 – after beating Barcelona – and FA Cup quarter-finals. But they left Anfield bruised and battered after being thrashed 7-0 with Mohamed Salah, Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez all scoring braces.
The Red Devils return to the home of their bitter rivals this weekend having regressed since then. Defeat here would all but end their hopes of winning the Premier League and could leave nine points off the top four. They are also out of Europe altogether after elimination from finishing bottom of their Champions League group.
The pressure has cranked up on Ten Hag and defeat away to Liverpool served to be Jose Mourinho’s last ever match as United manager a little over four years ago. The Portuguese was axed on Tuesday after a 3-1 defeat on Merseyside the previous Sunday.
Asked by a Dutch reporter if he can guarantee he’ll still be in the job after the trip to Liverpool, Ten Hag replied: “I’m not concerned about that. I want to win, I want to win with my team, progress the team in the right direction. We are here in a project.
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“Last season we were heading in the right direction. This season we haven’t met the standards we expect to have. That’s the truth. We have had a set back. I think the future for Manchester United is very good if you see how many good players we have in the squad, how many good young players who have really high potential to play at a top level world wide.
“I am sure when the injured players come back this team will perform better.” United have lost 12 of their 24 matches across all competitions with seven losses in 16 Premier League outings. Seven of their league, Carabao Cup and Champions League defeats have come at Old Trafford.
But despite United’s struggles, Ten Hag remains confident. In the Dutchman’s defence he has been badly hurt by injuries this term. For the trip to Anfield he will be without Harry Maguire, Tyrell Malacia, Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen, Mason Mount, Amad Diallo (all injured), Bruno Fernandes (suspended) and Jadon Sancho (exiled).
Anthony Martial (illness) and Victor Lindelof (injury) could also miss out. Ten Hag said: “I see the quality on the training pitch, but the only moment they have to prove it is in the games themselves. And this team have proved it in certain games, when they have been under high pressure, and played very good football.
“Yes, they have also had lows… so there have been high highs and low lows. As a team we have to become more consistent.” United’s troubles on the pitch come at a time when the club’s ownership is in a process of change.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is poised to oversee the entire footballing operation once his 25 per cent deal is eventually finalised. Once Ratcliffe is a minority shareholder, it has been speculated Ten Hag might be axed by the INEOS CEO.
And asked if he had spoken to anybody from the company, Ten Hag added: “No. There are others dealing with the strategic review so I’m just waiting. I’m focussing on my job which is performing with the team and developing the team.”
With Fernandes suspended and Maguire out injured, it is unclear who will captain the United team at Anfield. Rashford, Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw are among the main options to take the armband. Ten Hag added: “We will put out a team who can challenge, who is confident to win that game. We are preparing the team in the best way we can. We are confident we can put out a team who can win there.”