Erik ten Hag after big derby defeat: ‘You won’t see how we played at Ajax here’ | Sport

With summaryManchester United had no chance at all on Sunday evening at Old Trafford, in a one-sided derby against city rival City. Erling Haaland decided the game with two goals and an assist on Phil Foden: 0-3. The pressure on Erik ten Hag will increase again in the coming weeks.

Sjoerd Mossou

Latest update:
29-10-23, 20:30

The teases resounded incessantly from the away section on Sunday, where City supporters once again underlined the relations in the football city of Manchester. “Old Trafford is falling down,” is heard over and over again from the corner of the old stadium, in a playful variation on a classic British song.

The visiting fans happily sing their way to the end of the match, while the grumbling in the home stands becomes more and more intense. In a city derby that should have honored the recently deceased club legend Sir Bobby Charlton with a victory, afterwards cynicism and grumpiness reigned in the red part of Manchester.

On the sidelines, Erik ten Hag apparently undergoes the punishment unmoved, but the blatant class difference irrevocably hurts the Dutch manager. While United surprisingly won at home last season, they now look hopeless against Pep Guardiola’s top team. The third goal is telling after eighty minutes, when Haaland casually serves Phil Foden, who only has to slide the ball into the empty goal: 0-3.

Erik ten Hag and his assistant Mitchell van der Gaag look on passively at Old Trafford. © AFP

Almost immediately from kick-off, City are in charge at Old Trafford, except for a few short match phases. United mainly plays from the reaction, hoping for a whim from Marcus Rashford or Rasmus Hojlund, leaning on a closed organization. The visitors are nevertheless supreme on the ball, combining smoothly and controlling, patiently looking for an opening.

Erik ten Hag: ‘I can’t blame my team for anything’
Erik ten Hag does not understand why people accuse him of not letting Manchester United play football as frivolously as Ajax. “We will never play the football we played at Ajax here,” he said after the lost Manchester derby. “I now have other players, that’s not why I came here.”

“The player material you have determines how you will play,” said Ten Hag at Viaplay. “That’s why we play here in a different way than I did at Ajax. That will have to be the case, because I can’t play the same way here. That is not in the DNA of Manchester United at all. The football at Ajax is very typical, here we will play much more directly. We also have the players for that, especially at the forefront.”

Ten Hag did not drop his players after the defeat against City. “We played quite well in the first half. But of course that penalty changes the picture of the match. Then we have to play offensively. We forgot our agreements for a moment and conceded 0-2 far too quickly. But in the first half we did exactly what we had to do and made it very difficult for them. I’ve seen us fight. I can’t blame them for that either. I can’t really blame my team anyway.”

City did not get big chances for a long time, but a moment in the 24th minute opened up the game. Referee Paul Tierney initially noticed it, but Hojlund committed a foul during an incoming free kick by clumsily and unnecessarily pulling Rodri to the ground. At the insistence of the VAR, City is still awarded a penalty, used flawlessly by Haaland: 0-1.

The goal paves the way to a worry-free victory for the visitors. Scott McTominay gets a good shooting opportunity, Hojlund is only allowed to go at Ederson, but based on the field play it is mainly City that can claim a goal. Haaland headed in his second goal just before half-time, but Andre Onana then made an unparalleled save from close range.

Five minutes into the second half, the United keeper still has no chance. A brilliant City attack leads through Bernardo Silva to Haaland, who is able to head it completely clear at the far post: 0-2.

After that goal, United took the initiative more emphatically, but City hardly had to get nervous. Rashford gets another good chance, but shoots wide. Ten minutes before the end, the match is finally decided, when Foden taps the ball in and slides on his knees towards the away section: 0-3. Two minutes later, Foden almost made it 0-4 with a bicycle kick, but his spectacular attempt went half a meter wide of Onana’s goal.

“You’re f*ckin’ shit,” the fans in the corner sing again, triumphantly and hatefully, knowing that United will once again not be a significant competitor in the battle for the Premier League title.

In fact, it will be a tough job for United to qualify for the Champions League again this season. Number four Liverpool, which won 3-0 against Nottingham Forest on Sunday afternoon, already has eight points more than number eight Manchester United after ten rounds. Tottenham Hotspur, the surprising leader in the Premier League, is even eleven points above Erik ten Hag’s team.


© AP

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