EPL

I don’t care about speculation – Erik ten Hag

By Sports Desk March 29, 2024

Erik ten Hag says he does not care about speculation regarding his future as Manchester United manager.

A promising first season saw Carabao Cup glory followed by finishing third in the Premier League and runners-up in the FA Cup, but things have gone off track this term.

United face a fight for Champions League qualification as the campaign enters the final straight, with the stunning 4-3 FA Cup quarter-final extra-time win against rivals Liverpool breathing new life into the team.

A Wembley semi against Coventry is the reward but that result did not stop talk about Ten Hag’s future during the international break as ambitious Ineos consider their options.

England boss Gareth Southgate was linked to the United job but said such talk was “completely disrespectful”, although the Dutchman appears unmoved.

“You know when you are working at Man United there will always be noise, rumours around the club, the manager, the players, whatever,” Ten Hag said.

“There will always (an) issue – you like it, to talk about. Of course we have different interests, but we are not focusing on that.

“We are focusing on the process, we are focusing on the team to play better, to improve the way of play, so I don’t care about (it).”

Ten Hag came through intense pressure in the early stages of his time at United.

Having lost to Brighton in his first match after joining from Ajax, the Red Devils went on to suffer a chastening 4-0 away defeat to Brentford.

Ahead of returning to the Gtech Community Stadium for the first time since, Ten Hag said of the outside noise: “I was trainer at Ajax. Similar.

“You get used to it, so we don’t care. Players don’t care, I don’t care. We are together in the boat and we know we have to perform and get the right results.”

Before the recent Liverpool win, one of the only positives in a forgettable season was the development of youngsters like Alejandro Garnacho, Rasmus Hojlund and Kobbie Mainoo.

The latter was named man of the match on his full England debut against Belgium on Tuesday, just four months after making his first Premier League start.

Ten Hag had planned Mainoo’s opportunity to come far sooner, only for the midfielder to sustain ankle ligament damage in July’s pre-season friendly against Real Madrid.

“It was the plan, it was the intention,” the Dutchman said. “We thought he was capable of adjusting very quickly to high levels, so we had to delay that moment but for him and for us it’s good.

“Later in the season he proved that he can contribute highly to our team.

“We are happy we have a player like him who can really contribute and make us play the way we want to play.”

Ten Hag is hoping Mainoo is available to face Brentford having reported sick on Thursday.

“(Thursday) he skipped the training because he was ill,” he said.

“I don’t know (about Brentford) but of course we hope. (Friday) he is there, not fully recovered but we have still many hours I would say as we have a kick-off at 8pm.”

Mainoo’s performances have bolstered his chances of making England’s Euro 2024 squad but team-mate Marcus Rashford’s position looks more precarious.

“Of course he knows there is a lot of competition in his position,” Ten Hag said.

“And of course he will have a lot of credit because he contributes so many times fantastically for England and for us.

“Of course, he wants to be there but also he wants to win with us. He is in a position to win a trophy and he wants to be in the Champions League.

“Absolutely he wants to contribute and he wants to perform.”

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