LONDON — Erik ten Hag says misfiring Manchester United can show they have learned from last season’s 7-0 humbling at Liverpool on Sunday, insisting the future is bright for his beleaguered club.
With the exception of a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in August 2022, United’s recent record against the Premier League leaders is dire — they have lost four of the past five meetings, conceding 21 goals in the process.
Ten Hag said his sixth-placed team would be highly motivated at Anfield, despite the trauma of last season’s record defeat against their bitter rivals.
“It is a great place to go,” the Dutchman said on Friday. “We know it is going to be tough, but I think every top footballer wants to have that challenge.
“Last year we take that in our memory but you also have to take the benefit from it, learn from it and on Sunday we can prove that.”
Ten Hag said the match at Anfield, where Liverpool have won every league match this season, would be a “new game”.
“We go there and we will be confident from the start to the end,” he said. “We have to fight there, we have to challenge there.”
Injury-hit United have had a wretched season so far — losing 12 of their 24 matches in all competitions.
Last week they were embarrassed 3-0 at home by Bournemouth and on Tuesday they crashed out of the Champions League after finishing bottom of their group.
But Ten Hag said he was upbeat about the future.
“The future for Manchester United is very good if you see how many good players we have in the squad, how many good young players we have in the squad who have really high potential to play at the top level worldwide but we have to develop that,” he said.
“I’m sure when the players return from injury this team will perform better.”
United’s dire campaign has heaped the pressure on Ten Hag himself, who has worked against a background of uncertainty as the wait goes on for confirmation of British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s partial takeover.
But the Dutch manager said he has the backing of the Old Trafford hierarchy.
“I’m focusing on the process, I’m focusing on making the team play better, I’m focusing on making individuals better,” he said.
“That’s my concern. That is all I’m doing — focusing on the right thing and that is the team.”
United captain Bruno Fernandes faced particular criticism after March’s Anfield annihilation and will miss Sunday’s match after collecting a fifth booking of the season for dissent.
Fernandes joins a long list of absentees, including injured players Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro and Tyrell Malacia. — AFP