Dutchman will be pleased with back-to-back clean sheets from the games against Omonia and Newcastle, although we haven’t been able to translate our monopoly in possession into goals – with Scott McTominay’s late, late strike on Thursday sparking the only Old Trafford celebrations last week.
While Ten Hag has talked in detail about how his side can improve going forward, he sees defensive solidity as a base from which United can build, as we look ahead to the visit of Tottenham to M16 tonight…
So Erik, how has training been since the game against Newcastle and are there any lessons from that game which you’ll be looking to take into another big game at Old Trafford tonight?
“Less time to train, I would say. It’s about recovery: food, sleep well and, of course, the ones who played less, we have proper training. But for the rest, less training and prepare [for] the next game. That’s it.”
Is there any more team news? Scott McTominay is available again but are there any other players returning, such as Christian [Eriksen] or Anthony [Martial] maybe?
“Yeah, it’s good to have Scott back. We’re happy with that. Anthony Martial is not available, Eriksen we have to wait. He was just on the pitch. See how he recovers from that and then we will make a decision tomorrow.”
At the other end of the field we’ve had two clean sheets in a row and just one goal conceded in the last three games, so that must be a great feeling to know the defence is doing well…
“We defend with eleven. It’s a team performance, from the front to the back. Really good defending and then you’ll see then that you can achieve clean sheets. It’s a base for every successful team.”
There’s been so much improvement with better defensive play all over the pitch, so you’ve been impressed with how the front players have defended?
“Yeah, we do really well. I know when the routines come even more in, they will become even more controlled, it will be even more dictating and that is what we aim for. We have now to get that routine in, 100 per cent, because in the defence you have to be 100 per cent disciplined. It’s never about ‘but’ or ‘if’: no, you have to do it. To do it as individuals, to do it as a team.”
On top of that clean sheet, obviously it was David De Gea’s 500th appearance as a Red. He’s an exemplary player and it must have been really pleasing to see him achieve that…
“Of course, when you talk about defence you need a great goalkeeper to get the clean sheet. We have one and we are really happy with him. It’s a big achievement when you play 500 games for Manchester United. I really value that, I really congratulate him. Once again, it’s a great performance.”
Tottenham Hotspur have had a great start to the season, what have you made of their performances?
“They’re a really good team and, once again, they’re a really intense team, so we have to match that. They are well-organised, so we have to be prepared. They can break very quickly. We have to be aware of that. They can defend really solid and compact, but we have to find the gaps. We have to make it our game, so we need the best from everyone: the 11 players on the pitch but also on the bench that can make a difference, finally.”
We’ve had two big wins previously, against Liverpool and Arsenal, and the fans played a massive part in those with the electric atmosphere that they created. How important could they be on Wednesday night?
“Yeah, it’s clear. There’s always a co-operation between what’s happening on the pitch and what’s happening in the stand. When that electricity comes over from the pitch to the stand and the stand back to the pitch, then we can achieve massive performances and this is what we aim for.”