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Erik ten Hag hits back at Jamie Carragher in row over Manchester United tactics

The Manchester United manager accused Jamie Carragher of being ‘very subjective’ in his analysis on Sky Sports

Lawrence Ostlere
Tuesday 27 February 2024 13:52 GMT
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher (PA)

Erik ten Hag has accused Jamie Carragher of being “very subjective” in his analysis of the Manchester United manager and his tactics.

Carragher presented a segment of Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football show in which he went into detail on United’s tactical flaws, and used footage from Fulham’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday to illuminate gaping holes in Ten Hag’s defensive setup.

“They defend like a team I have never seen before,” Carragher said. “What I mean by that is that they like to press high with a deep block. It’s impossible. They are trying to do two things at the same time. You can only do one thing or the other.”

While Ten Hag agreed that he had been caught off guard by Fulham’s shape at the start of the contest, he accused Carragher, who spent his career playing for United’s rivals Liverpool, of being unfair.

“First of all, some analysts are very objective in their comments, very good advice. Some are very subjective. Jamie Carragher is one of them,” Ten Hag said. “From the first moment on he has criticised and now he wants to make his point. Probably in the first half an hour, he had a point. Fulham, the midfield setup surprised us and then we had to find the solutions. And after half an hour, we found the solutions.”

Ten Hag admitted that United’s overall performance was “unacceptable” and urged his side to improve when they take on Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Wednesday night.

“I was not pleased with the performance in defending, especially over the left side, how we did that pressing because they came out, especially in the first half an hour, several times over the left side can’t happen. That has everything to do with willingness and spirit and passion. In the previous weeks that was very good for this team and therefore we won the football games.

“I know footballers are not robots, sometimes they have bad days. But it can’t be, it’s unacceptable and we have to do better tomorrow. But in the weeks before we have done very well.”

Jamie Carragher dissects Manchester United’s defensive shape on Sky Sports (Sky Sports Premier League)
Erik ten Hag is under pressure after new ownership at Old Trafford (Getty Images)

Ten Hag also gave a staunch defence of Antony, whose future is the subject of much speculation. He did not comment on whether the Brazilian winger could be sold in the summer but insisted he can get back to his best after failing to make the starting line-up in the Premier League this year.

“I backed him for a long time,” said Ten Hag, who previously managed Antony at Ajax. “I know his abilities and he has great abilities. I know from the past, he is unstoppable, no defender can stop him because he’s one of the quickest players in the first 10 yards. When he plays that game, he will perform.

“I’m very confident he will do it for the future. He is resilient, he is a character and he will fight back. I back him and he now has to wait for his chance and once he is there he has to pick up.”

United face a crunch week in their season, with Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round visit to Forest followed by the Manchester derby at the Etihad on Sunday.

The FA Cup is the Red Devils’ last chance of silverware, while defeat on Sunday could spell the end of their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

“When you are unbeaten for January and February and you lose one game – we know our aim is to win every game, at United you have to win every game,” said Ten Hag. “Obviously it was a poor performance, a poor defeat, we are aware of this and we want to stay in every competition so, yeah, we have to win tomorrow. But it doesn’t change our approach because that is for every game.

“So many more defining moments will be coming up. The first game is the most important.”

Midfielder Casemiro is available for the trip to Forest after being forced off against Fulham with a cut to his head.

Additional reporting by PA

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