Soccer

Manchester United’s new-look midfield must click quickly – Erik ten Hag

Erik ten Hag says Manchester United’s new-look midfield must click quickly (Nick Potts/PA)
Erik ten Hag says Manchester United’s new-look midfield must click quickly (Nick Potts/PA) Erik ten Hag says Manchester United’s new-look midfield must click quickly (Nick Potts/PA)

Erik ten Hag has admitted Manchester United’s new-look midfield must click quickly after a stuttering start in Monday’s victory over Wolves.

Raphael Varane’s 76th-minute header gave United three points at Old Trafford, but Wolves were worth at least a point after registering 23 shots at goal and being denied a stoppage-time penalty that even Premier League referees’ boss Jon Moss later acknowledged should have been given.

Much of the focus was put on an underwhelming display from United’s engine room after the match. Ten Hag disputed suggestions that Casemiro had been left isolated as both Bruno Fernandes and Mason Mount pushed forward, but he admitted much better is needed away to Tottenham on Saturday.

“It’s a new midfield and we have step up there,” he said. “We have to improve in possession. We were absolutely not good.

“It had to do with our rules and principles and we did not match those rules and principles in possession and then you do not get a good game.

“Also the players made so many unforced errors and we were below our standards from what we are used to and what our players are capable of.

“We have already seen in pre-season we can do much better and we’ve seen last year they can do much better so I’m sure they will improve quickly.”

Mason Mount in action for Manchester United
Mason Mount in action for Manchester United Ten Hag believes Mason Mount (pictured) can adapt to a deeper role (Nick Potts/PA)

Making his Premier League debut for United after a £60million move from Chelsea, Mount struggled to make an impression and was replaced by Christian Eriksen in the 68th minute, with the Dane providing more defensive cover alongside Casemiro.

But Ten Hag believes Mount, who played in advanced positions for Chelsea, can adapt to a deeper role in much the same way as Eriksen did after joining from Brentford last summer.

“I think he can and already we have seen it in pre-season,” Ten Hag said. “We have to work on many facts of our game, the midfield and the cooperation in how we have to set it.

“I’m sure we will get it. It’s not coming overnight but if it was easy, everyone could do it.

“Christian Eriksen came in and had the same thing, it was the first time in his life he played in a deep role. That was the ambition from Christian and it’s also the ambition from Mason to be more multi-functional.

“It will not come overnight. There is a process we have to go through but I’m sure with his game intelligence, he has the technical abilities and also he is efficient with the ball. He knows how to deal with the ball.

“He has the dynamics and he has the mentality. All the ingredients are there to do it.”

New goalkeeper Andre Onana emerged from his Premier League debut with a clean sheet, but was lucky not to concede a penalty when he clattered into Sasa Kalajdzic without claiming the ball late on.

But Ten Hag said he had no problem with the Cameroon international’s approach to the game.

“I think he is very proactive and that is what we want,” he said. “We want proactive players but of course he has to manage himself as well, when to be proactive and when to be more passive.

“I will encourage it, I like it when players are proactive, to be on the front foot. That is the type of player we need.”