Manchester United needs to build a stronger mentality and learn to recover from setbacks during games, manager Erik ten Hag said on Friday after the Premier League side crashed out of the Europa League.
Ten Hag said the team had the ability to respond to setbacks during the season but was struggling to find a way back into games when things do not go to plan, especially after they lost 3-0 to Sevilla in the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday.
“We can’t deny it, it’s mental, definitely. We have to learn that you keep going, you carry on,” Ten Hag told reporters ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion.
“What this team can do very well is bounce back in between games, what they can do less is bounce back during a game to a setback. That is what we have to improve.”
Harry Maguire’s error led to an early goal for Sevilla and the captain’s performance came under the microscope again as United exited the competition 5-2 on aggregate.
But Ten Hag said the 30-year-old England defender remained a key member of his squad.
“He has an important role, he is the captain, he leads, he communicates with the manager, motivates the team, he’s the example in the training space,” Ten Hag said.
Maguire was not the only player to be criticised after the defeat and amid reports of a clear-out in the close season, Ten Hag said he was focused only on the current campaign.
“I’m thinking about improving this team and these players, that’s my job with the coaching staff and the players. We have all our focus on this process and not on other processes that will distract you,” Ten Hag added.
“I know this group of players can do better, they’ve proved it so many times this season. We’ve made huge progress during the season, but we have steps to go. We have a lot of games to play and occasions to prove it.”
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