EPL

Ten Hag offers no case for Man Utd defence after 'unacceptable' blunders

By Sports Desk January 22, 2023

Erik ten Hag has warned Manchester United they must cut out the clangers after going down 3-2 to Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Each of Arsenal's goals followed defensive errors as United failed to clear their defensive lines, with the final hapless attempt to play out from the back gifting the Gunners the possession that led to Eddie Nketiah's 90th-minute winner.

Fourth-placed United are 11 points behind Arsenal after Sunday's result, with hopes of a title challenge in tatters.

It was always unlikely United would be pushing for the trophy, but two last-gasp sucker-punches in London in the space of five days have dealt their hopes a major setback.

United conceded a stoppage-time goal at Crystal Palace on Wednesday that meant they only took a 1-1 draw, while this loss at Emirates Stadium compounds that disappointment.

"I think two games head to head, really close, it's hard to accept that in the end you lose in the final stage of the game," Ten Hag said.

"It can't happen, and we have to accept that, we have to learn the lessons. All the three goals, we could and we had to avoid them. Normally we are better in such situations."

Manager Ten Hag told Sky Sports he did not feel Arsenal's late pressure made it inevitable they would find a third goal.

"I don't think so. We are good in such situations, and it's tough, that's quite clear," Ten Hag said. "We have to defend much better in that situation. We're making wrong decisions and not one player but many more players, and then you concede a goal, and what I said was to avoid the same as the first two goals."

United hit the front through Marcus Rashford and then got level with a header from Lisandro Martinez, after Nketiah and Bukayo Saka nudged the Gunners into the lead.

Nketiah's second, a close-range prod, was Arsenal's reward for pushing hard for a winner as United lost a grip on the game.

"We started the game very well and scored the goal and were leading, and then made mistakes that were unacceptable," Ten Hag added. "We have to learn the lessons and move on.

"We will face the players with this because it can't happen. Good players don't make such mistakes."

Asked if the result might serve as a reality check, Ten Hag said: "It can be. Today we have to accept we are unsatisfied with this defending performance because we can do better.

"We went up 1-0 and the game is starting very well. Then you have to take benefit from that situation, and it can't happen that we concede a goal like we did.

"This is one game. Last week we did very well and kept the opponent away from our own box. If we were in the box we defended much better. Normally we don't concede goals from corners, and today there were two."

When it was mentioned that United have made progress this season, Ten Hag said he could see that, but it came as no consolation.

"We realise that as well," he said. "I just said the same words in the dressing room but also said if you want to win you can't make the mistakes I just mentioned."

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    United beat Reading 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday to advance to the last 16 of the FA Cup, while Wednesday's 3-0 first-leg win over Nottingham Forest means they are all but assured of a place in the EFL Cup final.

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    "At clubs we have to set squads and squads are big enough to deal with it and I think players like to play.

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    "If you see everything in the perspective of the result, after a defeat we've bounced back," Ten Hag said. "I was happy with the performance at Arsenal, but we made mistakes.

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    Casemiro's second-half double and a neat finish from Fred earned United victory over Reading, who had Andy Carroll sent off but pulled one back through Amadou Salif Mbengue.

    United lost key midfielder Christian Eriksen to injury prior to the hour mark, but Ten Hag says it is too early to determine if the Denmark international is going to spend any time on the sidelines.

    "It's always difficult to say in this moment so short after the game has finished," he said.

    "But it's an ankle [problem]. We have to see what the diagnosis is, so it will be a minimum of 24 hours before we know that and then I can say more."

    United are back in action on Wednesday with the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Forest, before returning to league action at home to Crystal Palace next weekend.

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