MANCHESTER — With Manchester United’s slender survival hopes in the Champions League hinging on beating Bayern Munich tomorrow, humiliation a few days earlier by Bournemouth hardly inspired confidence.
Yet despite Erik ten Hag’s team lurching from one bad result to another with 11 defeats in 23 games in all competitions this season, midfielder Scott McTominay says the players are fully behind the embattled Dutchman.
McTominay also conceded that has not always been the case with some of Ten Hag’s predecessors where the situation sometimes became toxic.
“It is the players’ responsibility first and foremost, the players know that as well,” he told reporters today.
“It is not just the case like (with) some of the other managers where it has been a little bit toxic at times.
“The boys are firmly behind the manager and that is the be all and end all. We have got (an) amazing coaching staff as well.”
Unsubstantiated media reports of dressing room splits ended with four organisations being banned for Ten Hag’s news conference ahead of last week’s Premier League game against Chelsea and the 3-0 loss at home to Bournemouth hardly helped calm the turbulent Old Trafford waters.
“People can get lost in translation and get carried away with what the players think and what they say behind closed doors—we just want to do well for the football club and it is as simple as that,” McTominay said.
United must beat runaway Group A leaders Bayern and hope the other match between Galatasaray and Copenhagen ends in a draw if they are to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.
It is a big if, although such is the wildly unpredictable nature of United’s squad, victory over Bayern is not out of the question. It will just depend on which United turns up, the one that outplayed Chelsea last week or the one that produced a shambolic performance against Bournemouth.
“I never think in negative scenarios. We think positively. We have to win to stay in Europe; it is all about that,” Ten Hag told reporters. “We have shown in the last weeks that when we are at our best, we can do it.”
United opened their Group A campaign with a 4-3 loss at Bayern, followed by a 3-2 defeat at home by Galatasaray in which they twice led. They were also 2-0 ahead away to Galatasaray in their penultimate group game, but ended up drawing 3-3.
“We are inconsistent as a team, we have not been naive to that. We have spoken with coaching staff about it,” McTominay said. “As a group we have to come together and find out the answers to that. It is finding that consistency and balance.”
United face a crucial week with the clash at home to Bayern followed by a trip to Premier League leaders Liverpool. Ten Hag, for now at least, appears to have the support of United’s fans.
“I hope the fans are together with us,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve always sensed a strong bond between the team and the fans. Even when we’ve had big setbacks.
“But we have to take responsibility and energise them.” — Reuters