Erik ten Hag claimed Manchester United have “the worst schedule in the Premier League” this season but says his team cannot use it as an excuse for throwing away a two-goal lead at Spurs.
Just four days after his side played 120 minutes plus penalties to beat Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final, United led 2-0 at Spurs thanks to Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford’s first-half goals. But that lead vanished as strikes from Pedro Porro and Heung-Min Son levelled the game.
“We have the worst schedule also in the Premier League, that will not change,” said Ten Hag when asked if tiredness played a factor in this slip-up.
“You have to take that. You can’t use it as an excuse. The time is enough time to recover, so our players are in demand to be ready. Today they were not ready.
“We thought 90 per cent is enough, that’s why we gave balls away. And when you don’t do your jobs in positioning, you concede goals.
“After half time there was a difference, we lost control because we are not all secure. Then you have to go into the fight. When you lose the battles, don’t have possession and don’t have chances you concede goals. That’s what happened. Then you have to be satisfied and take that point.
“It has to be [100 per cent]. You have to bring it every time. I know that they are not robots and it’s a tough schedule. But we can’t accept it when you are playing for Man Utd and you are wearing this shirt.
“You have to give [100 per cent] in every occasion, every game. And as a team, you have to manage the game, get the win, and that makes everyone happy and satisfied.
“But the basis is always to give everything, and that’s how you have to prepare as a player, that you are ready for the game, for the battle, for the fight.”
Ten Hag also defended his substitutions when United were 2-1 up and hanging onto their lead. Anthony Martial, Fred, Wout Weghorst and Tyrell Malacia all came on to little effect as United tried to see out the game.
“I prepared the subs already before 2-1, you could see that goal coming,” he said.
“You bring on Fred, [who has] energy, one who can win the ball. Sunday [against Brighton] he was brilliant in that.
“You bring Martial who can keep the ball. You then bring Rashy [Rashford], Antony, Bruno [Fernandes] making runs behind. That was the idea.”
In the Tottenham camp, Ryan Mason, taking charge of his first game as interim head coach following the sacking of Cristian Stellini, hailed his players’ character in coming back from two goals down in the wake of their 6-1 thrashing by Newcastle at St James’ Park on Super Sunday.
“Big character, big personality, stuck together, kept believing, acted as a team throughout the whole game,” he said in his press conference.
“That pleases me after what happened at the weekend because we probably didn’t have that as a group.
“Off the back of how the first half went, in terms of the scoreline, to go out and stick together, fight for each other and really get the fans involved – and I felt like they helped us massively – is pleasing.
“It proves a lot to me that I already thought about this group but to see it on the pitch is a good feeling.
“We created many chances in the second half, in the first half as well. Maybe if we were a bit more clinical, the flow of the game would have been different.
“But in the second half we kept pushing, we had some really clear openings. Maybe if we had got the second goal earlier, we could have kept pushing.
“I felt like, once we scored the second, the lads had invested so much energy that we went a little bit flat. But to come off 2-2 after being 2-0 down at half-time is a positive.
“You have to stick together in every moment. If you want to be a team, regardless of what’s happening on the pitch, you have to stick together and fight for each other and that’s what we did.”
Six games, zero wins.
Manchester United have failed to win any of their matches away at the top seven this season. In fact, they have only won one of their away games against the teams currently in the top 12.
It shows Erik ten Hag’s side still have a lot to learn – no matter how much of a corner they have turned from last season.
You could put a dwindling second half display at Spurs down to the fatigue after playing 120 minutes against Brighton at the weekend.
But the above record shows there have been regular signs this season that United have buckled when put in the tough atmospheres.
Six goals shipped at Manchester City, seven at Liverpool, dismal displays at Newcastle and Aston Villa as well as late goals conceded at Arsenal, Chelsea – and now Tottenham.
Many people have used Antonio Conte’s rant quotes about “not wanting to play under pressure” at Southampton as a stick to repeatedly bash Tottenham with. You can tap a little less hard on United too.
Spurs are next in action in a crucial game against Liverpool, which will inevitably have a bearing on the configuration of the Premier League’s top four, live on Super Sunday, kick-off 4.30pm, while Man United entertain Aston Villa on the same day at an earlier kick-off time of 2pm.
*Tottenham’s Remaining Fixtures*
April 30: Liverpool (A) – Premier League
May 6: Crystal Palace (H) – Premier League
May 13: Aston Villa (A) – Premier League
May 20: Brentford (H) – Premier League
May 28: Leeds (A) – Premier League
*Manchester United Remaining Fixtures*
April 30: Aston Villa (H) – Premier League
May 4: Brighton (A) – Premier League
May 7: West Ham (A) – Premier League
May 13: Wolves (H) – Premier League
May 20: Bournemouth (A) – Premier League
May 25: Chelsea (H) – Premier League
May 28: Fulham (H) – Premier League *SkySports*