United were comfortably beaten 6-3 by rivals Manchester City last weekend in an embarrassing display where Ten Hag’s troops were outclassed from start to finish. Though the Old Trafford outfit have impressed prior to that thumping, with performances that consolidate themselves as top four candidates.
The Red Devils travel to Goodison Park on Sunday to take on Everton, and Ten Hag has called for some improvement from his players regarding how physical they are on the pith. He said: “I know nasty, I know what it is. In that manner we can progress sometimes – also play a little bit smarter.
“Like we have too many bookings. Some, at the start of the Premier League, play tough, but I wonder why we collect so many bookings and I don’t understand. Like the first booking against Manchester City last Sunday, I really don’t understand. We want to play tough, we want to keep the game going, and then in the second minute already it’s a booking for Diogo Dalot.
JUST IN: Cooper signs new Nottingham Forest contract after looking set for sack
“Clear, it was a foul, but then get booked? Also, I saw many other bookings where I thought ‘is that necessary?’ But also take it to the players. I have to keep reminding them to play smart but they have to play nasty as well.”
Ten Hag welcomed a crop of new stars to his squad over the summer, largely with the purpose of addressing United’s leaking defensive defence. Lisandro Martinez has thrived in the heart of defence, whilst Tyrell Malacia has shown glimmers of very high potential – Casemiro is still waiting for his first Premier League start.
Speaking about the standards expected of his players, Ten Hag continued: “It’s physical, it’s mental, it’s also sustainability, it’s like a routine, a way of life and you have to bring it every time in training, as a squad and an individual player.
“It’s not something you build in a week or a month, now it’s a system that has to be and a demand nowadays top football – and it’s quite clear City is the standard in that. There are more teams. But I think we can deliver that – we’ve seen it against Liverpool and we’ve seen it against Arsenal, but now we have to do it on a consistent basis.”
Everton will certainly prove a stern test for United this weekend but will provide a good opportunity for Ten Hag’s side to bounce back to form.