Erik ten Hag has thanked Manchester City for Manchester United’s “reality check” in Sunday’s 6-3 derby defeat and insisted his side will go up.
After the game, the manager criticized his players for lacking courage in a loss that ended four consecutive league wins. On the eve of Thursday’s Europa League Group E match at Omonia Nicosia, Ten Hag said United would learn from it.
“Now we get a reality check with Man City, we know we have to step up. So thank you for the lesson, Pep and City. We will take it and we have to understand that we have to do things very better,” said Ten Hag.
With his side 4-1 down at the Etihad Stadium, Ten Hag brought on Anthony Martial for Marcus Rashford and kept Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. Ronaldo, who wanted to leave in the summer, has started a league game but Ten Hag denied this could see him leave in January.
“I can’t see why he won’t come [on] when we’re 4-0, 5-1, 6-1 down,” he said. “I’m not taking him on out of respect, it’s got nothing to do with what happens in the future or January or next year. I can’t see that he’s unhappy, he’s happy, he’s training well, he’s enjoying it.”
Ten Hag was asked if Ronaldo – who could make his fourth start of the season in Cyprus – is satisfied with playing less. “He’s not happy he didn’t play on Sunday, but that wasn’t the question, the question was about how he is on the training pitch, his mood when he’s around and he’s happy. Of course he wants to play, he’s mad when he’s not playing. He’s really competitive, as we all know. He’s not happy when he’s not playing.”
Ten Hag was also asked if respect for Ronaldo’s career persuaded him not to bring the 37-year-old on as the team lost heavily, but Ten Hag said the questioner already knew that. “To me it’s pretty obvious, to you maybe not, but I think you understand why it is.”
When it was suggested his explanation appeared to treat Ronaldo as a special case, Ten Hag said: “When you’re honest, you know there’s a difference. For me, there’s no difference.
“I made myself clear, it’s always about how you live during the day, you line up with the strongest team you have, but there are differences, no one is the same in the team. I will treat everyone with respect, but they all have different backgrounds, with character they are different, I have to treat players differently to get the best out of them, but there are general standards and values that count for everyone. “
While United have three points and Nicosia none after two games in the phase, Harry Maguire, Raphaël Varane, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek are all unavailable for United through injury.