Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag lambasted the attitude of his players in an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Brentford last weekend as he demanded a response in Monday’s clash with Liverpool.
The Dutchman is off to the worst start of any new United manager in over 100 years after losing both his opening games to leave the Red Devils rooted to the bottom of the Premier League for the first time in 30 years.
Brentford players covered 13.8 kilometres more in a famous win for the Bees and Ten Hag reportedly responded by cancelling a planned day off to make his squad run that distance the day after defeat last Saturday.
“I was definitely not happy,” Ten Hag said at his pre-match press conference on Friday. “The basic stuff has to be good and that has to start with the right attitude.
“You need fighting spirit on the pitch and I didn’t see it from minute one.
“The players didn’t play good, a lot went wrong. You don’t have to talk about anything (tactical) when the attitude is not right.”
United’s disastrous start to the season on the field has followed a frustrating summer in the transfer market as a drawn out pursuit of Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong looks set to end in failure.
However, the English giants do seem set to land another midfielder from La Liga with Real Madrid’s Casemiro on the brink of a move that could rise to 70 million euros (£51 million, $61 million).
Ten Hag refused to comment on the arrival of the Brazilian international, but did offer support for the club’s embattled owners, the Glazer family.
A mass protest is planned outside Old Trafford ahead of the Liverpool match with supporters pointing the finger at the Americans for a decade of decline since legendary former manager Alex Ferguson retired.
“I can only say the owners want to win,” added Ten Hag. “The fans, we want them behind the club.
“I can understand sometimes but I am not that long in the club that I can see all the backgrounds, but we have to fight together so we have to be unified and fight together.”
Even if Casemiro is signed before Monday, he will not be registered in time to make his debut.
Anthony Martial is fit to return, leaving Ten Hag with another big call to make on whether to start Cristiano Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has featured in United’s opening two games of the season but still appears to be trying to orchestrate a move away from Old Trafford before the transfer window closes.