Football News

Erik ten Hag admits Manchester United ‘stole’ victory after FA Cup semi-final win over Coventry City

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:00, 22 April 2024

Erik ten Hag says Manchester United should not be embarrassed after reaching the FA Cup final but conceded they rode their luck.

The Red Devils raced into a 3-0 lead before the hour mark at Wembley, but Mark Robins’ men sensationally mounted a comeback, striking twice within eight minutes, leading to Haji Wright’s stoppage-time penalty forcing extra-time.

Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes got on the scoresheet for United, with Ellis Simms and Callum O’Hare bringing the Sky Blues to within a goal of the record English champions.

With penalties looming, Victor Torp thought he completed the most incredible FA Cup comeback, but Wright was offside in the build-up. In the ensuing twelve-yard showdown, Casemiro missed for United, while O’Hare and Ben Sheaf were off the mark, giving the Premier League side a 4-2 success.

There wasn’t much celebrating from the Man Utd players, with legendary captain Roy Keane, while on punditry duty for ITV Sport, suggesting they were embarrassed having squandered a three-goal advantage to an eighth-place side in the Championship, something Ten Hag disagrees with, though admitting unlike recently — in which United have thrown away leads — they got the rub of the green.

“We can’t say this group doesn’t have the right mentality because they showed character today, but in the final part there was a lack of discipline,” he told reporters. “It’s about communication and we have to improve on this.”

When questioned why his team have struggled to hold on to leads this season, the Dutchman added: “We can play at a very high level, but at the same match, we can drop to very low levels. It is not explainable, but it’s about taking responsibility. I have to teach my players and we have to do better. On several occasions, we have let the results slip away, but today, we got away with it. I see the mistakes, but it’s not an embarrassment – to reach the FA Cup final again is a huge achievement, and we will take energy from this.”


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Success was historic as United reached the FA Cup final for a record 22nd time, reaching the final in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2003-04 and 2004-05. Furthermore, they became the first team to progress through an FA Cup semi-final via penalties in back-to-back seasons, having also eliminated Brighton at this stage last season.

However, the Red Devils failed to win a game (in regular or extra-time) that they led by three goals for the first time since their 5-5 draw with West Brom in May 2013 in what was Alex Ferguson’s final game in charge of the club.

Even more damaging, from a defensive perspective, United have conceded 74 goals across all competitions this season, their most in a campaign since 1978-79 (also 74). They have conceded three or more goals in 14 matches this season, their most since 1962-63 (also 14).

“They’ll be celebrating getting to a cup final tonight but all this does is put more pressure on the manager,” Keane added. “Coventry looked like a Premier League team and Manchester United looked like a Championship side.”

Understandably, with United embarking on a new era under Jim Ratcliffe, who earlier this year became a minority shareholder at the club and subsequently took control over sporting operations, reports continue to suggest Ten Hag’s days at Old Trafford are numbered.

Since the vaunted reign of Ferguson ended in 2013, the Red Devils have gone through four permanent head coaches before appointing Ten Hag ahead of the 2022/23 season.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and incumbent Ten Hag won two League Cups, a Europa League title, and one FA Cup trophy combined.

Ten Hag’s predecessor, Mourinho, feels he did not have the same level of support and trust as the incumbent Man Utd boss, even though his current win percentage is better than any permanent head coach in the post-Ferguson era.

“My relationship with Ed Woodward was good – good as in the personal point of view,” Mourinho told the Telegraph.

“But from a professional point of view it was not the best.

“I am who I am. I am a football man. Ed comes from a different background and what Ten Hag has in his time at Manchester United I didn’t have. I didn’t have that level of support. I didn’t have that level of trust.

“So I left sad, because I felt I was in the beginning of the process. In some moments, I felt if they trusted me and believed in my experience things could be different.”

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