LONDON – Erik ten Hag said that winning the League Cup had whetted Manchester United’s appetite for more silverware, as he prepared his team to face Fulham in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.
The Red Devils beat Newcastle United at Wembley in February to end a six-year trophy drought and are also through to the last eight of the Europa League, in which they will face Sevilla.
“Of course, it is huge motivation,” said the United manager.
“We all really enjoyed Wembley, we all really enjoyed winning a trophy and it has to be the fuel for the next one, to get pushed by that idea, and that has to bring extra energy to beat Fulham.”
Marcus Rashford again stole the headlines on Thursday with the winner in the second leg of the Europa League last-16 tie against Real Betis, taking his total for the season to 30 goals for club (27) and country.
Nineteen of those have come since the World Cup and ten Hag said there was no secret to his success – following a miserable five-goal tally last campaign – but that the forward had simply improved gradually during the season.
“He was also not in the best shape when he started the season but the way of playing gives him a base,” he added.
“And then he brings his skills in and his attitude and mentality, and that is bringing him a lot of progress and that brings the team a lot of joy and gives Marcus a lot of goals and us a lot of wins.”
Rashford this week praised the impact of Benni McCarthy, who was appointed as part of ten Hag’s coaching staff to work with the club’s strikers.
Ten Hag admitted that the South African had played a big part, saying: “You also bring staff around who can make him (Rashford) better, who can make progress and whom he gets motivated from.
“We needed one in the staff who is specifically responsible for strikers. Benni is doing a good job but don’t forget others in the staff because it is about teamwork. The staff is in a good balance.”
Casemiro will not be available to face Fulham on Sunday as he begins a four-match suspension following his red card against Southampton this week, while Anthony Martial, Antony and Scott McTominay are unlikely to feature due to fitness issues.
Donny van de Beek and Alejandro Garnacho are out for the long term, but Christian Eriksen is closing in on a return following a serious ankle injury.
United will likely come up against former midfielder Andreas Pereira, who has played a key role at Fulham with three goals and six assists following his move from Old Trafford last July,
Ten Hag added that he had no regrets in letting the Brazilian leave, as the 27-year-old needed regular playing time.
“He’s a good player and I know him for a long time... I’m really happy for him and I think it was the right step, he had to play on a regular basis,” he said.
Fulham will welcome back Joao Palhinha from suspension but the injured Shane Duffy, Neeskens Kebano and Layvin Kurzawa remain sidelined.
“We have to prove on the pitch that we are capable of doing it (winning the FA Cup),” said manager Marco Silva.
“If you ask me if I believe? I’m 100 per cent sure I believe. I’m not saying that we are just dreaming of it.
“I believe we are able to do it if we are at our best level, (with) full respect to Manchester United. I’m humble enough to say they are the favourites, at home, and they’ve won the Carabao Cup.” AFP, REUTERS