Ten Hag hails Man Utd pressing after Palace win but warns 'a lot of work' remains

By Sports Desk July 19, 2022

Erik ten Hag said he was already seeing improvements in Manchester United's pressing after a 3-1 friendly win against Crystal Palace, but insisted there remains "a lot of work to do" ahead of the new season.

United maintained their 100 per cent winning record across pre-season with a routine triumph over Patrick Vieira's out-of-sorts side in Melbourne, with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho netting before youngster Will Fish received a late red card.

In opening the scoring with a neat volleyed finish, Martial became the first United player to score in three consecutive pre-season contests since 2007, when Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney did so ahead of a season in which United won the Premier League and Champions League.

As United finished a lowly sixth in the Premier League under caretaker manager Ralf Rangnick last season, their lack of an organised pressing style came under fire.

United ranked just 12th in the Premier League for possessions won in both the final and middle thirds of the pitch last season, as Liverpool topped both charts, and 37-year-old forward Ronaldo received particular scrutiny over his contributions outside of his clear goal threat.

After Tuesday's win, Ten Hag told MUTV: "We are happy with the improvement we see, but we see also there is a lot of work to do."

Asked specifically about United's pressing, he said: "That is a demand on the team, we press, we press all day. 

"If we can, we do it high on the pitch, if we can't, we do it in a lower block, but we have to do it together, as a team. The timing of the press, I still see switches we can't afford, we can prepare a better press. 

"I think also on the ball [we can improve]. We played well, but you see at 2-0 up or 3-0 up the belief is increasing, then with the ball we can delay, we can postpone so that opponents come out, and then speed up."

While Ronaldo's future at the club remains subject to speculation after he reportedly asked to leave for a Champions League club, Ten Hag is demanding greater off-the-ball work from all his forwards.

"I hope we can convince them [the attackers] to do a lot of work, a lot of running," he added. "You see, they put a lot of energy into the defence and they get rewarded by scoring goals, winning balls high up the pitch.

"No opponent likes to be pressed on the defensive line. I think it's a big advantage when you can do that, but you need the whole team."

Creative midfielder Bruno Fernandes is also relishing United's new, high-octane style, adding: "I think that we're much more aggressive now, firstly with the three guys up front; when they press, they press really strong.

"It makes where we recover the ball much closer to the goal. We are much more fresh to do that, we have more freedom when we recover the ball and we're playing much better on the ball too."

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