We were totally in control – Erik ten Hag rejects criticism after chaotic win

Bruno Fernandes scored twice – once from the penalty spot.

Erik ten Hag believes his side were always in control
Erik ten Hag believes his side were always in control (Martin Rickett/PA)

Erik ten Hag insisted his Manchester United side were always in control of Wednesday’s Premier League match against Sheffield United despite twice needing to come from behind to beat their relegation-threatened opponents 4-2.

In another tumultuous Old Trafford encounter, Harry Maguire struck against his former team to cancel out Jayden Bogle’s 35th-minute opener but Ben Brereton Diaz again had the rock-bottom Blades in front early in the second half.

Bruno Fernandes then took over, scoring twice – once from the penalty spot – before creating another for Rasmus Hojlund.

But it would have been more food for thought for Ineos director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford, who watched alongside United’s newly-appointed technical director Jason Wilcox.

Manchester United technical director Jason Wilcox and Dave Brailsford in the stands
Manchester United technical director Jason Wilcox and Dave Brailsford in the stands (Martin Rickett/PA)

United had 72 per cent possession and 25 attempts at goal as they ended a four-match winless run but Ten Hag’s side have now scored at least two and conceded at least two in each of their last five in all competitions.

Asked what Brailsford and Wilcox might make of such chaos, Ten Hag countered: “We were totally in control. I’ve seen a different game, sorry.

“We had two giveaways, two times we were behind so we talk about two negatives – one is focus and one is discipline.

“But for the rest I think we were totally in control. The team showed resilience. It is not easy when you are losing the game but we turned it around against a compact team. We outplayed them. We were calm.”

The hosts created their own problems, with Bogle punishing an error from goalkeeper Andre Onana and Brereton Diaz turning in Ben Osborn’s cut-back to restore Sheffield United’s lead five minutes after the break.

“We have to stop this process,” Ten Hag added. “You can’t make such mistakes at the top level if you want to achieve your targets, if you want to win trophies.

“You can’t allow these mistakes and focus on discipline because life is much easier when you don’t make such mistakes.”

It was a captain’s performance from Fernandes that dug United out of trouble.

The Portuguese got his first from the penalty spot after Auston Trusty pulled back Maguire, then fired in a fine left-footed strike to give United their first lead in the 81st minute. Four minutes later, he laid another on a plate for Hojlund.

“He shows his leadership,” Ten Hag said. “But also with his energy, in his transition both ways, it is very important. He tries to encourage the team. He is doing very well and we are very pleased with his performance and with his attitude.”

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder (Martin Rickett/PA)

For Sheffield United, defeat pushes them a step closer to inevitable relegation, now 10 points from safety with four games left to play.

Chris Wilder got a response after Saturday’s 4-1 home defeat to fellow strugglers Burnley but still no reward.

“It’s bittersweet for me,” he said. “I don’t go with the narrative that Manchester United are poor. You look at the team-sheet, they’ve got world-class players all over the park.

“Then you look at the other team-sheet and no criticism of anyone but it’s the best we can put out in terms of what’s available.

“You expect to be under a bit of pressure, you expect your goalkeeper to make some saves which he did… you score two away from home and take the game to 80 minutes. Those are the positives.

“But the negative is yet again, if we do things a little bit differently from a our defensive point of view, not just tonight, but we come away with many more points than what we’ve got and we wouldn’t be in this position. But we are.”