Erik ten Hag sat down with supporter group members today for a special Manchester United fan press conference.
As something a little different, instead of the usual herd of journalists, the manager was questioned by 13 Manchester United Supporters Club branches.
The event provided insight into the build-up to the Carabao Cup match against Aston Villa, as well as some longer-term plans.
Immediately afterwards, Ten Hag was asked about the Carabao Cup game and the injury problems United are facing.
“First of all, all games have one goal: we have to win. So we put the best players we have on the field, make a proper plan and get the lineup. We want to play a strong team, win and go to the next round.
“There are some players coming back, but also some question marks. Anthony Martial played 20 minutes earlier and I hope he continues like this. I think he is capable of playing more minutes.
“Jadon Sancho, we have to wait. Antonio, we have to wait.
Asked about the performance in United’s Premier League defeat against Aston Villa, the Dutchman pointed to fitness problems caused by the club’s hectic schedule, but still demanded improvement.
“We had a good flurry of games and we played a lot. I know that the players are not robots, but we are not happy with our performance. We analyzed and it was not good enough.
“We want a reaction to go back to what we have seen in the last few months with the attitude and the culture.”
“We have to win every game. We take every game seriously. Also this cup. We want to win this cup”.
On young players, Ten Hag suggested that opportunities would always be available to younger players, regardless of competition.
“I am open to bringing young players. We brought Alejandro Garnacho because he deserved it with his performance in training camp.
“I am really someone who will support the process and I will have communication with the academy and those under 21, so that we have a good line. But in the end, the players have to deserve the chance.”
In his first five months at the club, Ten Hag was upbeat.
“I knew from the beginning that it was an exciting process but also a difficult one. We saw that United were far from where we needed to be. We have had to work very hard and I think we are going in the right direction, but much more has to come.
“It’s a challenge and I like challenges. You walk down Carrington and you smell football. We want to reach our goal and that is on top of the world.”
Ten Hag insists he is determined to bring back the glory years at Old Trafford and stressed the importance of mindset and creativity to the club’s historic successes.
“United has always had a fighting spirit and very good offensive players. It was always the rhythm and the fight that was in the culture of Manchester United and that was what he wanted to bring back to the club.
“When I saw the team on Sunday, that was not Manchester United.”
The manager was asked what a successful season would look like.
“First, we have to win all the games! Well no, it’s to put us in a position where we can win trophies. When we get to April, we have to be able to win trophies. For now it’s about winning games and developing the team”.
Ten Hag was also asked where he wanted his team to be in two years’ time and gave an idea of his overall plan for the club.
“We have to do well in the transfer market and have a good youth philosophy. In two years I want a good style of play. When we get that style across the team, you’ll see the improvement we get from management, coaching and training.”
On United’s visit, Ten Hag was effusive in his praise.
“We have to build that union between players and fans because I think it’s a weapon. It really helps us. I think the best example was against Chelsea when we drew and the players and fans were celebrating together.”