Ten Hag: Coaching Manchester United swimming with hands tied

Erik ten Hag said managing Manchester United is like “swimming with your hands behind your back” after Arsenal‘s 1-0 win at Old Trafford inflicted a record ninth home defeat of the season and left United outsiders to secure European qualification.

Leandro Trossard‘s first-half goal moved Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table going into the final week of the season, but FA Cup finalists United have now won just one of their last nine games in all competitions — against relegated Sheffield United.

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Ten Hag was once again forced to deploy midfielder Casemiro at centre-half because of a defensive injury crisis, while Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Mason Mount were among a number of high-profile injury absentees.

Having cited the team’s injury problems for the club’s miserable season, former Ajax coach Ten Hag said his job has become increasingly difficult.

“Any manager can always do something better, but I am two years here and I had only one time the full group of players, and you cannot progress a team with so many injuries,” Ten Hag said. “It is like swimming with your hands behind your back. You have to keep your head above water and we are trying to do that.

“It shouldn’t be like this, but I return to all the problems we have and you then analyse the performance. You have to see that we were competitive, but that is not what you want, of course; we have to win, we have to win every game.

“But at the moment, we are not at this position and definitely not this team with the injuries.”

United can seal qualification for the Europa League by beating Manchester City in the FA Cup final later this month. Another route to Europe’s second-tier competition would be to beat sixth-place Newcastle at Old Trafford on Wednesday ahead of the final weekend, but seventh-place Chelsea can also pip United to the Europa League spot depending on results.

Ten Hag said it would be devastating for United to miss out on Europe altogether for the first time in 10 years.

“It is very damaging,” he said. “That is the situation we are in, but still we can get there. We have the opportunities to take them and fight, even when the problems are massive, everyone knows this.

“We have to deserve it, especially the fans, they follow us on Monday [at Crystal Palace], they understand the position we are in. Today they are behind us from the first whistle, they see the team needs backing and support, so we are united and that is very good.”