Erik ten Hag starting to adapt to Premier League and dragging Man Utd players with him



“That was the problem especially in the second game when you don’t give everything and you don’t have the attitude for 100 percent and you don’t have the right team spirit, you don’t have to talk about philosophy or game plan or whatever. First, it has to be a team and spirit and 100 per cent commitment.”

That is also why you could forgive Ten Hag perhaps insisting this performance was better than it looked. It isn’t about constantly relaying reality in the most brutal terms, even for this group of underachievers. It is now about building confidence.

Bruno Fernandes volleyed home Manchester United’s winner against Southampton

Hence Ten Hag focused on the way Bruno Fernandes’ goal was constructed out wide, in the way the coach intended, rather than the struggles to play through the middle. It was why he raved about the clean sheet, rather than the continued issues De Gea had playing the ball out from the back.

Ten Hag of course admitted there is “room for improvement” and it is some way off his ideal, but that they are medium-term concerns. The main concern right now is obvious.

“We have to get results and win games.”

And?

“That is what we did today and I’m happy with that.”

It is why it is also not yet that important that they were still a “moments” team in the way that was the case under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jose Mourinho. That’s inevitable when it goes back that far. Improvement will be in instalments, which was also a description of how United progressed up the pitch.

You could again see why they so wanted Frenkie de Jong.

Diogo Dalot impressed again for Man Utd against Southampton

On that, with just four days left of the window, transfers inevitably came up in the post-match press conference. Purchases of course represent a factor that could yet greatly accelerate this team’s understanding of what the manager wants. United are going to be one of the busiest clubs, as they look for a ball-playing goalkeeper, a forward and consider a full-back. Diogo Dalot’s form has mitigated the need for the latter, and he was good again against Southampton, especially with the ball for Bruno’s goal.

The pursuit of Antony, who has been the main target over the last few weeks, now looks subject to some protracted talks after a £74m bid was rejected. Ajax have already sold so many first-team players they do not want to sell, and can set a high price, but it’s “a lot of money to leave on the table”.

United also had an approach for Eintracht Frankfurt’s Kevin Trapp turned down, so will instead look at Borussia Monchengladbach’s Yann Sommer and Freiburg’s Mark Flekken.

All would form part of Ten Hag’s ideal, the “rules” of which his players are starting to follow.

The manager was naturally asked what those rules are. Ten Hag laughed.

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“Do you have one hour? There is always a journey you have with your team and we started from the first day in pre-season to get that in. the window is not closed, so every time a new player is in, you have to inform them about the rules. And then they have to play together.

“Football is a team sport, a complicated sport 11 v 11 that takes time to present that and second to train that. You need training and games to get that in. It will take time but I’ve seen some good stuff today and I am happy with that and we win. It’s about that.”

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