Football: It’s been ‘too long’ since United won a trophy, says ten Hag

Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper (right) wants his players to attack the in-form Red Devils. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER – Manager Erik ten Hag opined that it has been “too long” since Manchester United won a trophy, a situation he said he will “do everything” to rectify.

He made the comments on Tuesday, ahead of their League Cup semi-final, first leg at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.

The Red Devils last lifted silverware back in 2017, when they won the Europa League and League Cup. But United have improved under ten Hag and are the only English team still in contention in four competitions this season – the English Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League.

He said: “It’s the best feeling you can have, winning a trophy. I had the luck in my career to win some trophies and it’s magnificent, especially for the fans.

“It’s so great and the fans here have some experience, especially the older ones. But now it is a period Manchester United didn’t win trophies and it is too long ago. We are aware of that fact and we have to do everything to bring a trophy in... We have a good opportunity.”

Ten Hag said United have moved on from their 3-2 defeat by English Premier League leaders Arsenal in their last game and his players are fully focused on facing Forest, who are 13th in the standings, nine spots below United.

The Dutchman said Diogo Dalot, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial remain unavailable for the game, but Casemiro would be available again after serving a one-match ban in the league.

Sancho’s return, in particular, would have been welcomed, with fellow right-winger Antony coming under criticism for his performances.

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand said of the £85 million (S$138 million) August signing from Ajax Amsterdam on his podcast: “He just doesn’t beat anyone... He’s a tricky winger, but you want them to still be able to beat the defender.”

His ex-Red Devils teammate Gary Neville added on Sky Sports: “It’s just not happening for him at this moment and he has got a bit of work to do.”

Former Tottenham Hotspur and England striker Darren Bent was more scathing, saying on talkSport: “All tricks and flicks, no substance... It’s not like he’s doing a trick to manipulate the ball to go past someone, he’s just doing it for the sake of it.”

Offering a more substantive approach, Forest boss Steve Cooper said on Monday his side will take the game to United.

With Forest regarded as underdogs, it would be easy for him to adopt a defensive game plan, but he said his side would go on the offensive at the City Ground.

“It’s not been an easy ride for sure to get to the semi-final and we’ve treated it like every other game, one we want to do well in and win,” Cooper said.

“It’s a semi-final, we really want to commit to it, we really want to attack it. Obviously it’s Man United, it’s over two legs, incredibly tough games – but ones we want to have no regrets about.

“We’re in the semi-final of an important cup. We should go into it thinking they don’t come along very often, so treat it like it might be the last one.

“There’s a real good feeling about the semi-final in the city. The stadium will obviously be the atmosphere that it’s been every single game so far this season, which has been incredible, and we should really embrace that.”

Forest played United in the league in December, losing 3-0 at Old Trafford, and Cooper was not happy with his team’s lack of confidence on that occasion.

He wants a more up-tempo display this time.

“We felt that we didn’t play with enough belief and courage in the game,” he said.

“It was going to be hard whatever, and we might have played better and still got nothing out of the game.

“But we did walk off the pitch thinking we could have done a bit better there and I don’t want that in these games. I don’t want any regrets.” REUTERS, AFP

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