Football: Ten Hag praises dazzling United for ‘best display’ as they outclass Spurs

Manchester United's Fred celebrating after he scored the opening goal against Tottenham on Oct 19, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON - Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag hailed his side’s display in their 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday and said Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to walk down the tunnel early would be dealt with.

After having two shots on target in a dire 0-0 draw with Newcastle United on Sunday at Old Trafford, the hosts looked like a different side against Spurs, dominating the Premier League match from start to finish.

Signs of progress for United since losing their opening two games of the campaign have been hampered by a lack of killer instinct up front. But they finally got their rewards in front of a delighted full house when Fred’s deflected effort found the bottom corner two minutes into the second half.

Bruno Fernandes then doubled United’s lead with his first club goal since August.

But more significantly, United had 28 shots - the most by a team in a Premier League match this season.

The figure was the most that a team managed by Italian Antonio Conte has faced in a top-flight game, in what was the 318th league match he has taken charge of in the Italian Serie A and the Premier League.

“I am pleased with the team,” said ten Hag, whose team are fifth in the standings. “I think it was the best team performance this season.

“You have seen today we are developing. You see how we want to play, we get better on the pitch every time. Spurs are a magnificent team so far this season, I said to the lads in the dressing room, ‘It was enjoyable to watch you’.

“It was a squad performance. What we have seen today, we have 11 players who defend and 11 who attack. I am pleased with that. I will not say that I am totally satisfied. That has to be the standard at Manchester United.”

Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo (right) was an unused substitute against Tottenham. PHOTO: REUTERS

There was one negative for ten Hag as unused substitute Cristiano Ronaldo walked down the tunnel before the final whistle, seemingly unhappy at not being involved once again this season.

The United boss, however, did not want the incident to detract from their display.

“I don’t pay attention today, we will deal with that tomorrow,” he added. “I want to focus on this team, on these 11 players.

“Against this Tottenham, you need good pressing, good counter-pressing, from there you can create chances. So you need good pressing players. Offensive wise you need that dynamic. That is what Marcus (Rashford) brings.”

While ten Hag was purring about his team, his opposite number Conte was left to lament his side’s struggles against top Premier League clubs.

The scoreline at Old Trafford was 2-0, but it did not reflect the fact that they were easily second best. For all their progress this season – Spurs are third in the standings despite the loss – Conte feels his team still let themselves down against tougher opponents.

“We have to be honest, United deserved to win,” he said. “They started the game very well. In our side, we did not start the game. It was really difficult, because we made a lot of simple mistakes.

“Every time we play a high-level game, we struggle. I want to be honest – against Chelsea we struggle, we lost against Arsenal and Manchester United we lost.

Manchester United players celebrating after scoring the 1-0 lead on Oct 19, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

“In this type of game, I think that you need to arrive and not make big mistakes, with great concentration, great focus. You need to be ready to fight a war, or you die against your opponent. The level is very high, we are struggling. We need to show much more. I think that we can do much better than this today.” REUTERS, AFP

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