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Manchester United folded 'like a pack of cards', fumes Erik ten Hag after derby humiliation

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Manchester City's Phil Foden and Erling Haaland celebrate with the match ball as Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag looks on at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

Manchester City's Phil Foden and Erling Haaland celebrate with the match ball as Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag looks on at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

Manchester City's Phil Foden and Erling Haaland celebrate with the match ball as Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag looks on at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

A furious Erik ten Hag accused his Manchester United players of collapsing like a “pack of cards” in their 6-3 humiliation by Manchester City.

Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both scored hat-tricks, with Ten Hag admitting he’d chosen not to bring substitute Cristiano Ronaldo off the bench when United were already 4-0 down “out of respect” for the striker’s fine career.

Many United fans opted to spare themselves further punishment by leaving the ground at half-time, with the club’s former defender Gary Neville claiming his old team “bottled it”.

“The plan was to show bravery and confidence, but we didn’t from the first minute,” Ten Hag said. “For the first goal we won the ball and could have created a great chance, but instead we gave it easily away and then it was like a pack of cards. I criticised them, I told them. Me as well, because I didn’t get the message through. With this lack of confidence we cannot win games. I don’t think this attitude is Manchester United, we can act much more brave.

“We are in the process and I knew before that big teams like City, when you are not good you get hammered and we were not good. We didn’t follow the rules and principles of the way we play and you get hammered. We have to accept that, but this performance was not acceptable.”

When asked why he did not bring on Ronaldo, Ten Hag replied: “I wouldn’t bring him in because we are 4-0 down, out of respect for Cristiano, for his big career, and the other thing was the advantage that I could bring Anthony Martial on and he needs the minutes.”

On whether he sympathised with the fans who left early, Ten Hag added: “Yes, of course. In a derby when you are 4-0 it is unacceptable.” On a grim day for United – whose former manager Alex Ferguson was pictured in the stands grim-faced – Neville, in his role as pundit for Sky Sports, claimed the team had not shown enough heart.

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“The United players have bottled it, there’s no doubt,” he said. “They’ve just not handled this derby at all.”

Roy Keane, the former United captain, said the defeat was “hugely embarrassing”. He added: “As brilliant as City were, United were desperate, particularly in midfield. They were overran. Again we look at leadership (and) there was nothing there from Man United.”

Haaland has now scored hat-tricks in his past three Premier League games at the Etihad. At the end of the game he and Foden grabbed match balls to take home.

It means Haaland has as many hat-tricks in the competition as Ronaldo, despite only arriving in the summer.

Pep Guardiola, the City manager, described his player as a natural-born goalscorer whose game is getting better as he is still adapting to his new team.

“Of course the quality we have alongside him helps him to score goals. But what he has done, I didn’t teach him once,” said Guardiola. “How he moves behind the central defenders. He has incredible instincts that the ball will arrive there and it comes from his mum and dad, he was born with that and just to help him produce more goals.

“He said: ‘I prefer to touch the ball five times and score five goals’. I don’t like that, I want him to touch the ball more. He will have a break.

“There will be games he is going to play. Now we are lucky. Last season he could not play many games, he was injured all the time. When he arrived here we have incredible physios – thanks to them he can play every 90 minutes.”

United also lost Raphael Varane to injury in the first half, although the France centre-back did not require treatment in the dressing-room and was able to sit on the bench when he went off.

Ten Hag punished his players after the defeat by Brentford with an extra training session and running to make up the difference with their opponents during the game, but he says the players’ mentality was a bigger problem after this thrashing.

“The punishment is a reason, they outrun us and we didn’t work hard enough. Today is also mental but it’s a different mental issue, it’s like belief. It’s not always about punishment, of course, we have to criticise each other, so I didn’t get the message right to the players, the belief to the pitch, our way of playing. That’s disappointing. It’s good it happens against City and you get quite clear what happens when you don’t bring it.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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