Football News

How Man Utd’s owner and players reacted to Erik ten Hag questions post-FA Cup win

By CJ Smith

How Man Utd's owner and players reacted to Erik ten Hag questions post-FA Cup win

Published: 20:17, 25 May 2024

Manchester United defied all the odds to beat rivals Manchester City 2-1 in Saturday’s FA Cup final. 

After finishing eighth in the Premier League and preparing to face an all-conquering City side, all the odds were stacked against the Red Devils. Yet, they managed to flip the script thanks to goals from teenagers Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo.

The shock at Wembley makes Erik ten Hag the first manager to beat Pep Guardiola in an English domestic final, while it also ends Rodri’s 74-game unbeaten run at club level. What’s more, it’s also the Dutchman’s second major trophy in two years as Manchester United boss after lifting the EFL Cup last season.

But despite the wild celebrations on the Wembley terraces and among the players, the overarching narrative remains whether or not this is Ten Hag’s final game in charge.

Although they finished third in the Premier League last season, eighth this time around is their lowest return since 1989/90 — before the Premier League even came into existence — while they also finished bottom of their Champions League group to crash out of Europe altogether before Christmas.

So, the question now is whether or not two domestic cup wins can outweigh the failures in the two biggest competitions of all, saving Ten Hag’s job.

The Dutchman was, of course, grilled on his future shortly after the final whistle at Wembley and was in a defiant mood.

“I don’t think about this, I’m in the project and we’re exactly where we want to be,” he said. “We’re constructing a team. When I took over, it was a mess at United. The team is developing and winning trophies, and playing to an identity, but you need the players to be available.”

Rather boldly, Ten Hag added: “If they don’t want me anymore, I’ll go somewhere else and win trophies because that’s what I’ve done my whole career.”

Manchester United players comment on Ten Hag future following FA Cup win

It wasn’t just Ten Hag facing questions about his future following the FA Cup final. His players were also asked whether they back their manager and expect him to be in charge next season.

The political awareness we’ve come to expect from Premier League players was on full show as many attempted to dodge the question, although most in red made it clear that, at the very least, Ten Hag deserved this end-of-season success.

Asked if Ten Hag deserved to stay, Fernandes said: “It’s not my decision. I’m just a player.” However, in another interview with BBC TV, the Portuguese playmaker gave far more backing to his manager: “It is crucial for everyone. We know the manager is under so much scrutiny, he deserves this, also everyone in the backroom staff and the players, we all deserve this.”

Interviewed on the pitch after full-time, Scott McTominay immediately dedicated the victory to Ten Hag: “We are delighted for the manager.”

Centre-back Lisandro Martinez — who put in a stunning defensive display despite this being just his second start since February 4th — celebrated with Ten Hag at the final whistle, lifting the former Ajax boss up in the air as they ran onto the pitch.

Former Man Utd captain and treble-winner Roy Keane believes Ten Hag’s trophy success is enough to earn him more time at Old Trafford and has his ‘fingers crossed’ the Dutchman remains in charge beyond the summer.

“We don’t know if a decision has been made, we know the pressure the manager is under and the questions before the game,” said the Irishman. “It’s always difficult when you are preparing for a cup final. In football you have to enjoy these moments, the staff, the players, the supporters. And then cross the bridge when it comes to it. The manager has done his job today.  Beating Man City in a FA Cup final is an extra bonus. Fingers crossed they support the manager.”

Jim Ratcliffe questioned on Ten Hag future

Even shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe — who will make the final decision on Man Utd’s managerial post — could not escape questioning, with one reporter asking him directly if Ten Hag is staying. The 71-year-old turned back to listen to the question, before walking away without giving an answer.

Legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson crossed Ratcliffe at the door and when asked himself, simply replied: “I’m retired, do you not know that?”