As Erik ten Hag steels his Manchester United side for today’s monumental clash against Arsenal, he concedes that the finer points could well tip the balance. The duel at the Emirates Stadium, featuring last season’s Premier League’s second and third-place finishers, is poised to be a defining moment as the campaign unfolds.
Speaking exclusively to the club’s media, Ten Hag has been in a reflective mood, pondering last weekend’s dramatic comeback victory over Nottingham Forest, his squad’s condition, the newly-announced Champions League draw, and the transfer window that has just shut.
Here’s a condensed version of Erik’s musings ahead of the 16:30 BST kick-off.
Erik ten Hag’s Take on Key Matters
When asked about last week’s remarkable game against Nottingham Forest, Ten Hag said, “I think it was an important marker in the season… such a comeback really gave good team spirit and will give a boost to the belief in the team… making improvement in the character and the belief that even when you are down, when you are losing, that you can always turn around a game and that will help us.”
On Arsenal’s season start, Ten Hag observed, “I think with their style and their system it’s quite clear and they did very well already last season… I think everyone is looking forward to it and, as I said, both teams have an attacking style so it’s going to be a great game… But of course, we want and we have to win this game.”
Recalling last season’s narrow defeat at the Emirates, the manager noted, “All the games we play, shortly we play them, also at Old Trafford last season, it’s really head to head, we know that, but we have to give everything. It’s about willingness and details will decide the game.”
In terms of squad readiness, Ten Hag confirmed, “Yes, [Rasmus Hojlund] had a good training week and now he is ready, he will be in the squad.”
Discussing the squad’s general condition amid a packed schedule, he mentioned, “It’s a condensed programme and the load on the players is high… we need squad depth and you need quality in that squad depth. We have so we can sort out injuries and we put out a good team on the pitch [on] Sunday, a team that is capable of winning [against] Arsenal.”
Finally, touching upon the closed transfer window, Ten Hag sighed, “Yeah, definitely. Those weeks are not easy… But it gives a lot of distraction and the demand on the squad and everyone involved is huge because you have to keep the focus on the right point.”
Champions League Outlook
When quizzed about United’s Champions League group, which includes Bayern Munich, Galatasaray, and FC Copenhagen, he said, “A really exciting group… We [are] really looking forward to facing them away but also when we welcome them to Old Trafford.”
His eyes lit up when talking about the standout fixture against Bayern, “It’s a really good game. As I say, two huge teams, big history [for] both and it’s a great match in the Champions League.”
To wrap it all up, the focus quickly shifted back to the imminent Arsenal match, “As you say, it’s about that. Go from game to game and Sunday that’s a huge game. I think attention has to be on that and it deserves [attention] that game.”
As the clock ticks down to the highly-anticipated match, the stakes couldn’t be higher.