'Get back to work' – Ten Hag refuses to bask in EFL Cup glory as Man Utd go for more

By Sports Desk February 28, 2023

Erik ten Hag's message to Manchester United players after winning the EFL Cup was "back to work" as they look to build on that success in the coming months.

United beat Newcastle United 2-0 at Wembley to lift the trophy, ending a silverware drought that stretched back almost six years.

Sunday's victory was also momentous because it made Ten Hag's promising start at the club tangible, and there are more prizes up for grabs before the end of the season.

The Red Devils are arguably still in the Premier League title race despite being eight points behind leaders Arsenal; they eliminated Barcelona to reach the last 16 of the Europa League; they remain alive in the FA Cup as well.

It is the latter that they turn their attention towards next, with West Ham visiting Old Trafford in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday.

Kick-off will be only about 72 hours after the conclusion of the EFL Cup final, and with such a tight turnaround, Ten Hag is eager to impress on the players a need for focus rather than basking in former glories.

Asked if there were any additional celebrations after United got back to Manchester on Sunday, Ten Hag told reporters: "No. Nothing beyond. Get back to work."

He added: "Of course, [on Monday] the players were still enthusiastic and they had to celebrate this moment.

"But after we settled down, we got back to work and did what we had to do, which was recovery. The ones who played less [minutes in the final] did a good training session."

Despite Tuesday's press conference being a preview to Wednesday, there was understandably very little focus on West Ham, rather the defeat of Newcastle.

One element of his management that Ten Hag has received a lot of praise for this season has been his squad rotation, with the Dutchman clearly comfortable dropping underperforming players and seemingly always ready to look to his bench to change matches.

And in that respect he was keen to pay tribute to the whole squad for the EFL Cup success.

"Let's make myself clear: we didn't win with 11 players, we did win with a squad and I think the squad the whole season is so important and every time players come in, if it's for a whole game, minutes, a couple of games – also during games when we can change the dynamics – we do it with many more than 11 players," he said.

"So I count on them and I know they will be ready, because every time they play they take responsibility and it's about that, but you also have to fight for your position.

"There can be great months ahead of us and great games and everyone wants to play games. The players who form the best teams will play, so it's also [the case] for [Harry] Maguire. When he plays well, he can come into the team.

"It was not my perspective from the celebrations [that it was about a few individuals]. I think everyone was involved, everyone was happy, and everyone had the idea we did it collectively, not individual or one, two, three players did this. It was the performance of the whole team, the whole squad."

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