Erik ten Hag described Manchester United’s tactic of crossing from deep for captain Cristiano Ronaldo as “stupid”, claiming that they absolutely were not following instructions in their 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa.
United attempted 23 crosses in 90 minutes and only four found a teammate, with Christian Eriksen most wasteful with eight crosses, only of which actually found a player in white.
The Dutchman was asked if the players were following his instructions in looking for the head of Ronaldo, he said: “No, I think it was stupid to do that.
“We delivered too quickly crosses in from too far and too forcing. Then, we don’t help him. We have to bring in the crosses at the right moment.
“I think in the second half also we bring too quickly the crosses in. The right moment was from Christian Eriksen in the first half and he found the moment in the pocket to deliver the ball to Cristiano at the far post. That was the right moment.”
United were two goals down at Villa Park before they had even really begun, with Donny van de Beek struggling in the absence of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford toiling on the right with Antony sidelined.
Ten Hag was asked if they had particularly missed Fernandes.
“Bruno Fernandes is an important player but I don’t have that feeling. It is about the players who are now on the pitch to win this game. If they do their job 100 per cent, with passion and desire, following the rules and the principles of football, then we win this game.
“When you lose the game at the start of the first half and the start of the second half, when you start games like this, you get beat.”
And on Rashford, Ten Hag said: “Yes, he can play there. If you look at his stats he scores across all the front positions almost equally. But for me, the best position for Rashford is No 9 or coming out from the left. But in our front line we have our problems so for this game it was the best balance.”
Ten Hag did not even acknowledge that Lucas Digne’s free-kick was at least unstoppable, saying: “I think the free-kick is stoppable because the ball is too far [away from the wall]. OK, it is a small detail but details make a difference in top football.
“It tells everything [about] us. I think that was one of our best standards. We are really front foot, we are really ready to play in all the games up until now. And today we were not. From the start, we didn’t follow the rules in defending and we lose our battles.
“Then we score the goal so are back in the game and we were hopeful at half-time that we can turn this around. Everyone went out with that feeling and that attitude but we gave the game away the same as the first half at the start of the second half.”
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