Erik ten Hag has spoken to the media ahead of Manchester United’s Premier League match at Chelsea on Saturday evening.
The media briefing was dominated by questions on Cristiano Ronaldo after the club released a statement on the no.7, confirming he would not feature in our squad that travels to Stamford Bridge.
Ten Hag was also asked the importance of this weekend’s match, the prospect of facing Graham Potter for a second time and the incredible support of our fans.
Hi Erik, we saw the statement from the club about Ronaldo. I’m just wondering how that conversation went and how you see that situation going forwards?
“What’s the talk if you ask about that is between Cristiano and me. I think the statement is also clear.”
Do you feel he will be able to play a part going forward?
“Yes. That’s also in the statement. He remains an important part of the squad.”
Erik, did he refuse to come onto the pitch on Wednesday night?
At the start of the season you reacted to an event against Rayo Vallecano, stating that players had to stay and support their team. Two weeks ago, at the Man City game, you said that Ronaldo was different and everybody knew he was different. How do you manage this situation?
“How we did. I’m the manager. I’m responsible for the culture and I have to set standards and values, and I have to control them. We are in a team and in a team we have standards and values, and we have to control it. So after Rayo Vallecano I said it was not acceptable, but he was not the only one. That was for everyone. So when it’s the second time, that will have consequences, and that is what we did. So we miss him tomorrow and that is a miss for us and the squad. It’s a miss, but I think it’s important for the attitude for the mentality for the group, and now we have to focus on Chelsea and that is the most important [thing].”
What do you hope dropping him from the team will achieve?
“I think it will have a reflection, for him, but also for everyone else. I set a warning at the start of the season, and the next time it has to be consequence, otherwise when you are living together, when you are playing together – and football is a team sport – you have to fulfil certain standards. And I have to control it.”
How frustrating is it, because we should be talking about hoping to make the top-four and we are asking about Cristiano. How frustrating is that?
“I understand, there are questions about that. But at the same time it’s about Chelsea. We have a big game to play, so all my focus is on that game, all the focus from the staff is on that game and all the focus from the players is on that game. We have to win that game, and we have to do everything we can, so we need full concentration to prepare for that game and to play our best.”
Do you find that difficult, do the players find that difficult to focus when all of this is going on around the edges?
“I think that’s part, when you play in top football, that sometimes there’s rumours, there’s noise, and don’t get deflected. You have to focus on the job and that is perform tomorrow.”
So far your best results against the big teams have come at Old Trafford. How ready do you think your team are to play that way and sort of level of performance away from home?
“For me it’s never an issue, away or at home, because the pitch is even big. t’s 11 against 11, there’s a ref, so it’s all the same. And, also away we always have a lot of support from out fans, so we are really happy with that. We feel strong and we are looking forward to that game tomorrow.”
What is it like when you are facing a manager you have already faced, so soon after?
“It’s nothing, I think from that game. It’s a different game , different team. Yes, some different players, we are further in the process so I don’t take – of course, I know more about him and the first time he knew maybe more about me. And that is maybe an advantage because he maybe know more about Manchester United in the first game, so now I’m longer in the UK – in the Premier League – so tomorrow, good fight. But it is not a fight between managers, it is a fight between teams
You mention the support. You’ve had three big home wins. How are you finding it, how does it compare to Ho lland?
“It’s fabulous to play on Old Trafford, with our fans in our back. So, a great experience, every time again. And I think opponents don’t like to play at Old Trafford. But at the same time, I like to play away games because the stadiums in the Premier League are fantastic. So I am really looking forward to Stamford Bridge. Already I have that experience to play there, so I know how the atmosphere is there, so it’s fantastic.”