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Ten Hag opens up on first year at Man Utd – Maguire, De Gea, PL challenge and upcoming season

Erik ten Hag has opened up on his first year in charge of Manchester United, disclosing that he needed to raise standards when he took over last summer. 

The Dutchman has earned rave reviews from fans and pundits for revitalising United, winning a trophy and making tough calls since his arrival.

Ten Hag led the Red Devils to their first trophy in six years as they picked up the League Cup. They also reached the FA Cup final and secured a spot in the top four last season.

The former Ajax manager made some big calls, including benching Cristiano Ronaldo when he started acting petulantly.

He eventually pushed him out of the door after his unprofessional interview with Piers Morgan.

Just days ago, Ten Hag made the call to permanently strip captain Harry Maguire of the armband and hand it to Bruno Fernandes. 

Ten Hag also sent Jadon Sancho away from the group to get himself fit enough to play – another surprising decision that paid off. He has also let go of stalwart goalkeeper David De Gea.

During an interview with The National, Ten Hag discussed various topics, including the progress made by United under his leadership.

When asked whether United can challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title, Ten Hag said: “I think in pre-season, we should not talk about that [talk of winning the title]. 

“I think no one in the PL can do that. Maybe City. They can do that because, for the last six years, they won the title five times. 

“So they can talk about that, but any other club must first compete for the first four positions and make sure you are getting in the first four, and then after the first two and then maybe you can see about getting yourself into such a position, but don’t talk about that achievement.”

On Maguire and De Gea, he added: “It’s the difference between a manager and a human being. 

“In the end, top football is about getting results, and then you have to make decisions, but you have to do it in an honest and transparent way. 

“The club appointed me to take such decisions in these moments but to also communicate those decisions and do it in a straight and honest way. 

“That is what I’m always looking to do. I always try to do it in that way.”

Ten Hag also touched on implementing the right culture at the club, stating: “The biggest challenge is to get the results in but to get that, you need the right culture, you need the right players, you need the right way of playing so you have to get a lot of things right and not only one.

“I don’t know what Liverpool or Man City are doing, but Ajax I knew. There are also many conditions that are very well organised at Manchester United. But, yes, in certain areas, we were short. 

“But in other things, for instance, Carrington is great accommodation, and when you have the opportunity to get around Carrington, it’s absolutely top facilities the club constructed. So there are also many things that are very right.”

Ten Hag expressed his desire for improvement this season. He emphasised the importance of transitions and effective pressing to achieve successful attacking play. 

He emphasised compactness, pressing the opponent at different levels on the field, and playing proactive defence while retaining possession or transitioning into attack.

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