Erik ten Hag insists there is no pattern of underperforming by his Manchester United team.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference ahead of tonight’s Premier League clash with Chelsea, the boss faced a barrage of questions about a perceived bad culture at United.
First, he was asked what he could do about the cycle that has repeated itself with several managers since Sir Alex Ferguson that sees a good first season followed by a poor one punctuated by rumours of dressing room disharmony. Does he fear for his job?
“There will be always tough times in every journey. We are in the right direction. We will get there where we want to be,” he replied.
“Because, see my record. Everywhere I was, every season, I got my targets.
“So if we stick together, if we stick to the plan and the strategy, we will get there where we want to be.”
He was then asked “when fans see highly paid players like Anthony Martial not trying, does there come a point when you just say ‘you’re out of the team’, even if it means bringing someone in from the youth team?”
Ten Hag replied “But Anthony Martial played brilliant against Everton. I don’t think it’s fair to point to one player.
“If you have one moment, you can’t make it as a pattern. If the week before we play brilliant, a lot of energy in the team and two games a lot of energy in the team and spirit, if it was a pattern it’s different, yeah, but this is not a pattern this season, absolutely not.
“Everyone is giving their best, there is unity as a team.”
Asked about whether he should abandon the man marking system employed against Newcastle, Ten Hag replied:
“No, no, I don’t want to play man marking. That’s the wrong idea.
“On a certain point we play man marking when we’re fully depressed but we play zonal and only in this game, because we didn’t cooperate, then it looks like it’s man marking, but I don’t want to play man marking, it’s totally false idea.”
Asked if he thinks there are still elements of a “no-good culture” at United, the manager replied:
“You talk in your article about one source, that’s a joke, so I won’t reflect it, on that. When you play one bad performance, you can’t [say] the culture is no good.”
Kick off at Old Trafford tonight is at 8.15pm.