You said given his late return, Cristiano Ronaldo is not up to the full fitness of the rest of the squad but with Anthony Martial’s injury, are you tempted to use him on Sunday, to start him, or do you feel you have enough options and you don’t need to rush him?
Erik ten Hag: We will see on Sunday.
With Anthony Martial’s injury, does that highlight the need for United to be stronger in looking for attacking options in the market?
ETH: We said it before, in the depth of the squad, we’re still searching to strengthen the squad.
In terms of the shape of the squad for Sunday, how are you feeling about it?
ETH: I think we will have solutions to sort it out.
It’s been a bit of a concern for the supporters for quite some time that the club don’t have a defensive midfielder. Are you comfortable going into the season with the midfielders you’ve got available?
ETH: I think so. We saw pre-season, we did pretty well there in that department so I’m convinced we have a good team, what I said before about the depth of the squad, we can still strengthen the squad, but I think the team shows they can play in a good level.
The players that you brought in that only started playing with you in Oslo, Eriksen and Martinez, are they fit enough to start on Sunday and if they are, does that give you a particular problem at centre-half, given you’ve got people like Maguire and Varane who have got a lot of experience?
ETH: I like such problems. I think that is what we are talking about, we need that in this squad, competition is one but also we go into a long season with a lot of games, so we need a lot of good players.
Are they available to start, are they fit enough to start?
ETH: I think they are fit enough to start.
It’s obviously been a long off-season, a lot’s gone on, you’re here because this club didn’t reach expectations last year, so now the season’s upon us, how excited are you? What is your overriding emotion, is it nerves, is it excitement or are you just champing at the bit to get going?
ETH: As you said, it’s exciting as every season but of course when you are going into the season with a new club and a new team, I think we work really good but also tough in the last weeks to get a base and I think we have the confidence that we have that base, so I’m really looking forward to start on Sunday.
What are your thoughts on Brighton, what do you expect from them?
ETH: It’s a good team, play decent football, play attractive football. I like them for what I saw.
What is the situation with Cristiano at the moment? We saw your quotes to a Dutch media outlet about the Rayo game, there’s been a lot of speculation with him all summer so what is the situation with him, do you feel he’s happy?
ETH: What do you mean? Clarify your question please.
So, obviously, there’s been comments… you said about the Rayo game that it was unacceptable that those that left early, it was unacceptable…
ETH: Wait, now I have to point. Those who left, there were many players who left but the spotlight is on Cristiano and that’s not right, so I think, do your research and make out that many players left – which is not correct. That is what I said.
Ok. But also, there has been talk all summer about Cristiano, so how do you feel starting the season with him?
ETH: Good but I don’t understand what is the relation. He was part of it, once again, there were a lot of players.
Ok, I’m talking more in a broader sense…
ETH: So, what do you mean?
With Cristiano, are you happy that he’s content? Have you spoke to him since you got back from the tour of Australia and Thailand?
ETH: I’m really happy. I had told you before, we planned with him for the season. We have a top striker and I’m really happy he’s here, he’s in the squad and we stick to the plan.
Do you feel you currently have a squad strong enough to finish in the top four?
ETH: I think what our aim is, is to win every game, this is what Man United is standing for.
Would top four for you be a good first season, fourth for example, in the first season and show progress?
ETH: I think we have to look forward to the first game and the approach has to be, we want to win every game. So, let’s start Sunday.
Going back to Cristiano Ronaldo and the other players who left, how can it be that they would think this is OK. Because I have never known any player involved in a match leave early, and I’m singling out Ronaldo because he’s the only one we know played… but just generally, aren’t you disappointed that your players think that’s OK under you?
ETH: I think we said enough of it, it’s not correct. Clear.
Is Anthony unavailable for Sunday?
How long do you think he will be out for because of this injury?
ETH: It’s always difficult to say with such injuries. I hope not too long.
Sorry to bring you back to Cristiano again, but how has he trained this week, do you get the sense he’s ready and willing to give his all when he does come onto the pitch for you?
ETH: I think I’m totally satisfied with the whole team, and they are really working good. It’s a good culture and also Cristiano is working really good, really tough and hard.
The game against Brighton at the end of last season was seen as it a bit of a low point for Man United fans, the 4-0. Did you watch that game? Have you watched that game as part of your preparations for this game and are you confident that progress has already been made in the off season to avoid something like that happening again?
ETH: Last season is last season, I’m not looking back, I’m looking forward. We prepared the team for Sunday, for the future and that’s it.
In terms of it being unacceptable, is it a case of explaining it to the players and then you move on? Or is there another reprimand that you need to give in that kind of situation? When leaving early from the game…
ETH: You mention it, you correct them and then you move on.
Can I just ask on the full-backs, what’s your view? Is it Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia competing on the left and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot competing on the right, or in your mind are you clear on who is going to be in those positions?
ETH: In the start of the season, that is all open and we have to cover many, many games so we need players, we need quality players to cover all the games, but I can tell in advance that no one can play all the games.
A lot of your predecessors here have been frustrated or perhaps surprised at the difficulty of bringing in players for a club of Manchester United’s size. How do you feel about the activity in the transfer market this summer and would you have expected to have all of those players in place for the start of the season?
ETH: That would be a good situation, but I have a squad and I’m happy with the squad, the current squad, I think they make good progress. I’m happy with the signings until now. We just don’t need any player, you need the right players and that’s the point, where we’re working all together.
Would you be happy not to sign anymore if, as you say, they’re not the right players?
ETH: If it’s not the right player, no. Then I’m happy with the current squad. We need the right players.
Just on that, you’re obviously very clear that you want to a holding midfielder and obviously you’re very heavily linked with Frenkie de Jong, are you getting to a point though now where you might have to draw a line under that and get an alternative player in, or are you prepared to wait and wait and wait with him and if you don’t get him, leave it and wait until another transfer window?
ETH: We want Frenkie? I don’t know [laughs]. It’s about the right players and there are many, but I cannot give comments about a player who is under contract in another club. When we have news, we will bring it.
But given the style you want to play, the importance of the holding midfielder to that role, can you stomach the idea of the transfer window closing and a player of that ilk not coming in, is that acceptable to you?
ETH: You work with the current squad and then you develop players who are in your current squad. In this moment, there are players in that position and they are performing really well.
There was a great sadness last season that Manchester United have some great young players, Marcus Rashford is one, Jadon Sancho another, but they failed to develop in the way everybody wanted. Are you confident you can get those players back to the standard they were but also take them onto another level?
ETH: Once again, don’t look back, look forward. I see the potential with many players in the squad and I am convinced we can develop them. First we must develop the team, then the individuals.
When you say you are not looking back, is it not correct to look back and to see what went wrong with those players, so you can fix it?
ETH: You have to analyse, that is clear. But you have to look forward because you cannot change the past but you can always change the future.
You say the focus is to win every game, but Man United have always been associated with winning a certain way, do you see it as equally important that you have a Man Utd team that entertains and also show pride in the shirt, because that was one of the accusations from last season?
ETH: You talk like a Dutchman, they always want to play brilliant football. That’s why I am here, I like it. You want to win, but you also want to win in a certain way, being proactive, brave and with adventure. That is also what belongs to the culture of Man United, we want to bring it in but at the end of the day if you cannot win in a good way or an entertaining way, you still have to win. That is the mentality and the attitude that we have to bring in.
It’s almost something that needed re-introducing, if you have to win ugly, you have to win ugly?
ETH: Of course. Sometimes there will be games where you will not play well but you still have to win.
Over the last few years there has been a disconnect between the fans and the owners, are you aware of the situation and how will you deal with it as the coach? And also, is it key for the players help with that by ensuring success returns on the pitch too?
ETH: Clear. Me, the coaching, the players, we have to do everything to bring success back on the pitch because on the pitch is where everything starts. It starts there and on the training ground every day, you must make what you can, as an individual and also as a team. Clear.
What kind of a role can the fans play moving forward?
ETH: I think it is clear. The stadium I think is meant to bring fight and cooperation. But we have to give the example out on the pitch, we must have the right attitude and that attitude means hard work but also especially, it means being brave. Bring in commitment then I think they will like it and they will bring the fight back.
We perhaps didn’t see the best of Raphael Varane last season, largely because he mixed half of the Premier League fixture list with injury, how confident are you we can see the best of him this season?
ETH: One hundred per cent, I am convinced of that. During pre-season we built a real careful and individual programme. In the last three weeks he has been involved in every session on the pitch, I am really happy about that. You see him growing, his fitness levels and also his performances levels. So I am happy about that as at the moment, Rapha will be fit and it is a huge squad for both the squad and the team.
I suppose this is the biggest job of your career, what do you think will be your biggest task this season?
ETH: I am looking forward to every game, as every game will be a challenge. So we have to get the best out of it. There will be setbacks and disappointments, that’s life, that’s sports life and every club, every team, every supporter has to deal with it. That is the attitude we all need. When we show it and you have a good plan, you will achieve success. I am one hundred per cent convinced of that.
Throughout pre-season you have talked a lot about Lisandro Martinez and him being a left-footed player, and how that helps you in both the offensive and defensive phase, you’ve also used Alex Telles in both centre back and defensive midfield. Why is that so important to have a left footed player in those areas?
ETH: Because the left footed are better orientated on the left side, in possession you then have better angles. But out of possession also the orientation is better and the angles are more comfortable to cut out and cover for a full-back.