Erik ten Hag has vowed to reinstate a ‘winning culture’ at Manchester United and claims he must ‘maximise the performance of the players’ to do so.
The former Ajax boss was speaking ahead of his side’s Europa League clash with Spanish giants Barcelona, with the first leg taking place at the Nou Camp on Thursday.
The Red Devils have been on an upward trajectory since the Dutch boss arrived in the summer and ten Hag believes he’s helping restore United to ‘where they belong’.
Speaking to UEFA.com, he said: ‘I’m fine and I’m happy there. I was looking for a new challenge and Manchester United was a big club, but obviously less successful [in the] last couple of years, so there’s huge talent to restore that big club [to] where they belong.
‘It’s not only about training the team. It’s about changing the culture, getting a winning culture, and that’s what I aim for, but when I say ‘I’, no: ‘We’. We have to do it together.
‘Manchester United is a great club, [there are] big fans all over the world, it’s a very global club. I’m really happy to be there, to be part of it. We want to be successful, but it’s got to be long term.’
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Ten Hag continued: ‘Every day, I expect the best from myself. I want to challenge myself. And, together with my coaches, I want to get the best out of the players. We want to create a good team but I also want to maximise the performances of the players.’
Under ten Hag’s guidance this year, a number of United’s first-team players – such as Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw – have had a resurgence in their playing career.
Winger Jadon Sancho was also allowed time away from the club by ten Hag in a bid to rediscover his best form. Shortly after, he scored a crucial goal in United’s draw with Leeds.
The United boss continued: ‘We work 24/7, that’s clear, because you never get rid of football. You never get rid of your team, but you also need to step back at times. I like to jog or bike or to play golf. Or to go to restaurants or the cinema. I also like to go on holiday.’
When speaking more of how he spent his down-time away from football, the boss added: ‘Of course, I don’t have a lot of time for it. I like to go to Switzerland or Austria and, when the weather’s nice, Italy or Spain. But football is always in your head. It’s in your mind. You work with it all the time.’
Ten Hag’s side travel to Spain in great form and have lost just one competitive fixture since the start of November.
Their terrific domestic campaign has seen them rise up to third in the Premier League table and firmly within a Champions League qualification spot.
Barcelona, meanwhile, have also been in brilliant form in their respective league. Xavi has managed to lead the Catalan side to the top of the Spanish top-flight.
They boast an even stronger record than United’s and haven’t lost a domestic match since a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in mid-October.