TOUGH taskmaster Erik ten Hag is not cutting his players any slack as they mount an unlikely title challenge.
Manchester United are the only team not to drop points since the World Cup return as they joined third placed Newcastle on points after Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth.
David De Gea revealed Erik ten Hag was not happy with Man Utd’s 3-0 win over BournemouthCredit: Getty
Ten Hag is proving to be a taskmaster while pulling United into the title raceCredit: Rex
While there was plenty of praise for the performance, goalkeeper David de Gea revealed that Ten Hag was still angry at the full-time whistle.
De Gea said: “He was happy with the clean sheet but at the same time he was a bit angry because we conceded too many chances and we were too open at the end of the game, so he was a bit angry.”
There will clearly be no let up from Ten Hag in his bid to take United back to the top.
Although he tried to shrug off a title challenge, it is being talked about at Old Trafford for the first time in a very long time.
They are now just a point behind second placed Manchester City, who face Chelsea tomorrow, and play them next in the league at Old Trafford in the derby.
They may be a distant nine behind pace setters Arsenal but the next match after facing City is, you guessed it, Arsenal.
United are still the only team to beat them in the league this season, 3-1 at Old Trafford back in September.
The talk from Ten Hag will be about one game at a time but with each game the case for a title push builds.
Tuesday’s was their sixth successive win in all competitions, the best run since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s immediate impact when taking over in 2018-19.
Yes the recent run since the World Cup has seen wins against three of the bottom six with City and Arsenal very different prospects.
But there is a momentum continuing to build with the Red Devils.
As De Gea said: “We are playing really well, we have to keep the momentum as much as we can and prepare every game as a final.”
It’s been a long time coming but Old Trafford is once again a daunting place for teams to come to.
Man Utd face Man City and Arsenal in the coming weeks
The four goals they have conceded there in the league is the fewest of any Premier League side at home.
It was September 4th in that win over Arsenal that they last conceded a home league goal.
BACK ON FORM
The opening day defeat to Brighton is their only one in eight in the league to go with six wins and a draw.
United have not conceded in the three games at home since returning to action, including the EFL Cup win over Burnley.
Goalkeeper De Gea said: “That’s how it should be to come here – it should be a tough place for the teams,”
Speaking after Tuesday’s win, De Gea added that the impact of boss Ten Hag cannot be underestimated.
He said: “He puts every player in the same direction and we feel like a proper team. Everyone wants to win, everyone wants to play for this club and that’s massive.
“He brought a great spirit to the team, we are playing really well and this is the way we have to show and keep the momentum as well.”
United have built their defensive record while rotating the back four to suit opponents, form and fitness.
Harry Maguire was back with Victor Lindelof at the heart of it on Tuesday after Luke Shaw had played at centre back with Raphael Varane at Wolves.
De Gea said: “I feel comfortable with everyone, everyone is training really well, they are ready to play. It doesn’t matter who is playing, everyone is ready to perform like and it’s great to have a proper squad.
“We were talking about how everyone is ready, everyone is focused, everyone is training really well, everyone is in the same direction, so this is massive. It doesn’t matter who is playing.
“It doesn’t matter who comes in, they put everything on the pitch, we have great team spirit and for me it’s great to see the players play in this way.”
De Gea produced three top draw saves to ensure another clean sheet adding weight to his bid to land a new contract at the club.
His current deal ends this season with the option on the club’s side to extend it by a further season.
De Gea 32, is hopeful, however, that there will be a new deal in place to keep him at the club for the rest of his career.
He said: “I hope so. I was saying this is my club, I’ve been here many, many years and it’s a huge honour to be here and I’m so happy here.
“I’m very relaxed, just focus on training, perform as best as I can. But, for sure, it’s going to end in a good way.”