Ten Hag admits Man Utd’s season was ‘RUBBISH’ but blames ‘REALLY BIZARRE’ problem

Robin Bairner
Robin Bairner
  • Updated: 25 May 2024 03:22 CDT
  • 5 min read
Erik ten Hag, Manchester United
© IMAGO/FootballTransfers

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has pinpointed one “really bizarre” problem as to why his team has endured, in his words, a “rubbish” season.

Ten Hag is poised to take charge of the Red Devils for the last time in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester City, with reports on Friday indicating that he will be sacked following the game no matter the outcome of the event.

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And the Man Utd manager admits it’s not been good enough.

READ MORE: Sacked in the morning? Ten Hag reveals what Man Utd’s owners have told him about his future

“Let’s be clear, it’s just bad, it’s just rubbish,” he told Voetbal International during an extensive interview.

“But we’re still in the FA Cup final. There is simply nothing more to it at the moment. With all these problems, this is the maximum possible.

“This season is by far the hardest season I've ever had. Of course I also had my moments of frustration and disappointment, but a little later I pick things up again and we continue. Because I know what needs to be improved and where we want to go with this club.”

READ MORE: Man Utd departure OFFICIAL as SHOCKING Ten Hag revelation made

Recently, I had the 15th different centre-back pairing in my starting XI. I’ve had 33 different defences!
- Erik ten Hag (Voetbal International

The former Ajax boss has pinpointed the club’s struggles due to injury problems in the middle of the defence.

After leading the club to third in the Premier League, it was put to him the continuing the improvement would have been “logical”, but Ten Hag has explained why that has not happened.

“The plan was clear. We buy a striker and get another goalkeeper, who is able to play football even better from the back, and an extra midfielder,” he said. “That was the approach and in theory we would become stronger and be able to take the next step. But practice has turned out to be completely different. That mainly has to do with all the injuries, especially in the last line.

Ten Hag has not had his problems to seek this season
© IMAGO - Ten Hag has not had his problems to seek this season

“It’s been a constant balancing act. It’s really bizarre. Recently, I had the 15th different centre-back pairing in my starting XI. I’ve had 33 different defences!

“In the first few weeks it may have been out of luxury, to see what fit best, but very soon it was purely out of necessity.

“And not just in at centre-back. Sofyan Amrabat has played left back four times, just to give an example of the necessity. We've had injuries all over the team. Casemiro, for example, has been absent for a long time. Rasmus Hojlund, the striker we bought, has had three injuries this season, and I could go on and on. That, in short, is what the season’s been about.”

Man Utd’s ‘insurance policy’ fails

Ten Hag explained that even his “insurance policy” failed.

“We initially had sufficient numbers on paper,” he said. “I even signed an extra defender last summer: Jonny Evans. He was, so to speak, our insurance policy. He was our fifth central defender.

“Evans was a former player at the club and asked to train with the youth team. We signed him just to be on the safe side, but for weeks he was the only central defender I had at my disposal.

“Or take a player like Willy Kambwala. A promising player, who we did not immediately think would play a role in the first team. For example, he wasn't even on the tour, not even the second one. He was not in the picture for a long time, but he had to play minutes with us.”

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These problems compromised the way Ten Hag wanted to play.

“Last season, I also had to make concessions to my football vision because it was more difficult for us to play football from the back,” he claimed. “It depends on your goalkeeper and rearguard to what extent we can shape the positional game from the back. With players like Andre Onana and Lisandro Martinez you can build-up from the back.

“If you take the combination of Martinez and Shaw, you have two left-footed players at the back who are strong on the ball, with the right angles on the field, and then the positional play takes shape. But we have rarely had the triangle at the back with Onana-Martinez-Shaw this season.

“Add to that the absence of Kobbie Mainoo and Casemiro in midfield and the positional play from the back takes on a completely different dimension. And not only at the point itself, but also in the development of the way of playing you get stuck. And you have to make concessions in your playing style in order to still achieve some results.”

Ten Hag has won 67 of his 113 games in charge of Man Utd.

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