ERIK TEN HAG admits he can’t get any satisfaction – even if he starts picking up trophies.
The Manchester United manager turned things around again tonight by visiting Burnley in the fourth round of the League Cup.
Ten Hag is forced to field a patched-up team with nine of his players just back from the World Cup.
And the Dutchman knows the league leaders – led by Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany – imagine they are ruining his plans to visit Wembley for the first time as Old Trafford boss.
Last season was United’s worst in the Premier League era as they finished sixth with just 58 points – 35 points behind Champ City.
But with the season restarting on Monday against Nottingham Forest, they are currently in fifth place, three points behind Tottenham Hotspur and playing on the bench.
The Red Devils are finally looking hot again ahead of the World Cup break after a £206.7m summer spending that sparked the start of a long overdue makeover.
But Ten Hag is coming into the second half of the season saying he’s barely started and won’t stop no matter how successful he makes a club that hasn’t won a trophy in five years.
He said, “I always say that satisfaction makes you lazy.
“I am happy with the way the players are performing and the fact that they are playing as a team with the right spirit and the right mentality.
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“But there is always a struggle to keep that progress going. This means maintaining high standards.
“If you are too satisfied with yourself and the team, you will not be able to maintain these high standards.
“I have to control it and set a good example.
“We must constantly meet high standards in order to compete with the best clubs in the Premier League and achieve our goals.”
Ten Hag is used to being a serial winner at Ajax, having won three Eredivisie titles in four years.
During the summer, he took over a team of underdogs from interim manager Ralph Rangnick.
Ten Hag, a 52-year-old workaholic, added: “I knew this was going to be a difficult project.
“Manchester United” was not in the circumstances that one would expect from them.
“Now we are in the right direction, but we are far from where we should be.
“If you want to compete for trophies, you have to play better in many elements of football.
“If we are doing the right things, if we are doing a good job, if we have the right plan, then yes, that is reassuring.
“We’re in fifth place – that gives us a good idea of where we can finish.”
Yesterday, Ten Hag welcomed nine more players to the training session of the 14-man multinational team that traveled to Qatar.
World Cup winner Lisandro Martínez and heartbroken France defender Raphael Varane have been given another week off after Sunday’s thrilling final.
Tonight’s visit to Burnley will be the first time Ten Hag has been without fallen superstar Cristiano Ronaldo since a high-profile exclusive interview with TalkTV’s Piers Morgan in which he left United “by mutual agreement”.
Now the manager is looking forward to more unity in his team after starting the season with a 2-1 home defeat at Brighton and then a 4-0 humiliation at Brentford.
Then Ten Hag had to deal with Ronaldo going from a deserter when he refused to come on as a substitute in a 2-0 win over Tottenham to a traitor in the box.
But he shrugged off the selfish, self-absorbed Portuguese and those setbacks early in the season and insisted: “Actually, neither upset me.
“Of course, after these results, I was not happy, don’t get me wrong, but these things were supposed to happen. I see that we are progressing, and now the first goal is to get back on the right track.
“When they returned from the World Cup, they were in different styles and systems.
“The players are coming back and they’ve been playing in a different setting and a different style of play for six weeks now.
“Then they have to go back to our style, our system, our rules and principles, and this is a team sport, so all 11 have to be on the same wavelength.
“We have huge ambitions, and if you have them, you must meet the highest standards and live by them every day.
“This is the only way to get better and get better.
“Like I said, I’m happy with where we are right now, but I also see a lot of room for improvement in football.”
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