After Manchester United’s narrow 1-0 victory against Fulham, manager Erik ten Hag was confronted by Rio Ferdinand regarding doubts about his playstyle.
The Red Devils, despite securing the win, didn’t deliver a convincing performance at Craven Cottage.
This win came after a tumultuous week, during which they suffered back-to-back 3-0 defeats to Manchester City and Newcastle United.
Ferdinand raised concerns with Ten Hag about the perceived lack of a distinct playstyle at United, especially when compared to managers like Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham Hotspur, Unai Emery at Aston Villa, and Roberto De Zerbi at Brighton and Hove Albion.
However, Ten Hag swiftly responded with a straight-faced rebuttal, pointing to his successful first season in England, saying, “With all respect [to Rio Ferdinand], didn’t you see my style of play last season?”
Ferdinand then clarified that he meant this season rather than the Dutchman’s maiden campaign in the job. Ten Hag defended his position by explaining the impact of numerous injuries, which disrupted the team’s routines and playstyle.
He stated, “This season, no, not quite, but people should know why. It’s because we have so many injuries. Every time we have to swap a player in and out, the routines they’re used to won’t be exactly there, and that is what you’re seeing at this moment in our team.
Obviously, we need to be winning games; that’s not an excuse, but when there are players that aren’t available, the roles won’t be the same.
We have good players, but they can’t play the same position with different people in every lineup. Once we’re healed, then we’ll play better.”
Following the exchange, Ferdinand praised Ten Hag for showing resilience amid mounting scrutiny over his role as United’s manager.
He highlighted the impact the win would have on the team’s morale, adding, “That’s good [from Ten Hag]. I like to hear that because the knives would’ve been out for him, for his team if they’d lost that game.
You can’t underestimate the impact that’ll have on the dressing room in there. It would’ve transmitted through all of them and added another layer of pressure to them.
But they weathered storms and they showed the character, the composure to come here away from home and managed to get the three points.”