Erik ten Hag said Manchester United reminded everyone they can “f—ing play football” on an extraordinary night at Old Trafford when furious fan protests failed to overshadow a stunning victory over bitter rivals Liverpool.
Goals from a resurgent Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford in either half secured an impressive 2-1 win to turn United’s season on its head and leave Liverpool still searching for their first victory.
Ten Hag made a huge statement of intent by dropping his captain Harry Maguire and star striker Cristiano Ronaldo and was rewarded with a remarkable showing only nine days after the 4-0 capitulation at Brentford had plunged the club into crisis.
“We can talk about technical [qualities] but it’s all about attitude – now you see we bring the attitude on the pitch,” the United manager said. “There was communication, there was a fighting spirit and especially there was a team and you can see what they can achieve because they can f—ing play football.”
United had lost their opening two matches and there was mutiny in the air as around 10,000 fans marched outside Old Trafford in protest at the club’s reviled owners, the Glazer family. Liverpool supporters were also targeted with abusive chants relating to the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters.
The protests continued inside the stadium and, even as United paraded their new £70 million signing Casemiro before kick-off, chants of “Glazers out” filled the air.
But it did not take long for a feel-good atmosphere to swarm back into the stadium as Sancho gave United a 15th minute lead that led to an angry verbal clash between the Liverpool players Virgil van Dijk and James Milner. Rashford doubled United’s advantage shortly after the restart after excellent work by substitute Anthony Martial before Mohamed Salah pulled a goal back late on for Liverpool to no avail.
Ten Hag insisted Ronaldo and Maguire still had a role to play although both may struggle to reclaim a place after this. Chelsea have enquired about Maguire while Ronaldo remains determined to quit Old Trafford before the close of the transfer window on Thursday week.
“I don’t have to mention that Maguire and Ronaldo are amazing players, and they will have a role in the future,” Ten Hag said.
United ran a total of 113.78km – 18km more than they did against Brentford – and completed 155 sprints, 51 more than Liverpool. Asked how Ronaldo could realistically play in a team that pressed with that intensity and aggression, Ten Hag said: “I think he can, and in his whole career and under several managers, he did. Several styles, systems, he always performed. Why can’t he do this?”
When it was put to Ten Hag that Ronaldo is 37, the Dutchman replied: “And? His age is not an issue. If you are young you are good enough and when you are old you still deliver the performance you are also good enough.”
Nonetheless, Ten Hag made a point of hailing the leadership of Bruno Fernandes and Raphael Varane and the warrior spirit of Lisandro Martinez and was delighted with the contribution of Rashford and Sancho in and out of possession.
“I think Bruno Fernandes showed leadership, together with Rafa Varane. They make a huge difference. But that is what they have to bring. We need more leaders,” Ten Hag said. “When you want a winning team, you need more leaders. We have to bring it in every game, not only against Liverpool. It starts with the spirit. Tactical is also part of it: where can you have weapons? We play with speed up front, that’s clear, but in midfield we played a good pass with [Christian] Eriksen, Bruno and [Scott] McTominay.”
Jurgen Klopp, by contrast, expressed concern with the start Liverpool have made after mustering just two points from their first three games.
“I am concerned about our situation, but that is how it is,” the Liverpool manager said. “We are in a tricky situation injury wise, we got through the week with 14, 15 senior players available and now have to make sure they don’t get injured. We should have won this game, I know it sounds ridiculous but that is how I saw it.”
Casemiro, who has signed a four-year deal with an option for an extra year at Old Trafford, watched on from the stands, with Ten Hag confident the Brazil midfielder will prove a valuable addition. “He’s the cement between the stones – he’s what we’ve been looking for so I am happy,” the Dutch manager said.https://kmaupdates.com/
Casemiro – who bid a tearful farewell to Real Madrid – will be eligible to play in Saturday lunchtime’s trip to Southampton so long as a visa is ratified in time. “The opportunity to start a new challenge at Manchester United and in the Premier League is extremely exciting,” he said. “I have worked with many great managers in my career and, having met with Erik and heard his ideas, I can’t wait to work closely with him, his staff and my new teammates in the coming years.
“I’m ending one beautiful journey in Madrid whilst starting another in Manchester as determined as ever to win football matches, win trophies and make our fans proud by bringing success to this great club.”