Erik ten Hag praised Manchester United’s Europa League win against Barcelona as “my biggest win” as manager of the club and praised the personalities of his players on the mend.
After an electrifying first leg at the Camp Nou last week which saw the teams draw 2-2, Man Utd fell behind early in the second leg following a Robert Lewandowski penalty.
But after the half-time introduction of Antony, the hosts appeared to have switched sides. Fred equalized minutes after the break, before Antony himself scored the winner to secure Man Utd’s place in the last 16 of the Europa League.
When asked if this is his biggest win as Man Utd manager, Ten Hag said BT Sport: “I think so. We had some good wins – Liverpool and Arsenal at home.
“I think that, two-legged against Barcelona – LaLiga leaders, eight points ahead of Real Madrid. We’ve all seen Real Madrid this week.
“So if you can beat them then yes this is my biggest win.”
He later added: “It was very flat in the first half, a little bit more confidence. Our substitute Casemiro we didn’t use enough. Aaron Wan-Bissaka had a lot of space on the right. We didn’t use him enough. Our pressure could to have been braver. That’s what we said at halftime.”
‘We have great personalities in our team’
Thursday’s victory proved to be a stunning comeback against one of Europe’s best-form sides, further demonstrating how far Ten Hag has bought his side since arriving in the summer.
He explained to BT Sport: “We have some great personalities in the team – like Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez. They come forward.
“Antony and Garnacho don’t fear anyone and we have more. Bruno, Casemiro. We have great personalities, so even when we suffer setbacks, they keep going.
“They are resilient and are focused on getting the result even after conceding a cheap penalty. They believe they can come back.”
He also praised the contributions of goalscorers Antony and Fred – comparing the midfielder’s marking of Frenkie de Jong to that of a mosquito.
He said: “Antony is brave and he is fearless. I think what he brought in the second half is what we needed, running behind, the dribbling, his goals. He is brave, he goes after and when the opportunity presents itself, he will attack I think he brings a lot to this team.
“Fred played an important role. Already last week in Barcelona, and this week, the same. He had to first stop Frenkie de Jong from playing.
“He had to play like a mosquito around him and go back and he did that. He was magnificent. A brilliant assist for Rashy at Barcelona and today the goal.”
It was another game where half-time substitutions influenced the result, and Ten Hag was keen to stress that it takes a squad to win.
He added: “Football is 11 against 11, we attack with 11 and defend with 11, but it’s more than that, it’s about the squad. You need different types and different profiles.
“When the time comes, you have to be ready to come in and contribute to the team. You can’t win trophies with 11, especially nowadays in football, you need a squad that brings a different dynamic to the game.”
Analysis: Half-time change gives Man Utd victory
Sky Sports’ Adam Bate at Old Trafford:
“Manchester United have scored 19 substitute goals in all competitions this season, more than any team in Europe’s big five leagues. Antony’s will be one of the most important and came after a crucial half-time switch from Erik ten Hag.
“Wout Weghorst has started all 11 games since signing for United last month and is clearly his compatriot’s favourite. But Ten Hag is relentless enough to recognize when something isn’t working and his quick half-time switch helped his side turn around. that tie around.
“Bruno Fernandes moved into the middle, Jadon Sancho came back to the left. Rashford went ahead and offered that threat from behind. Antony played on the right. It worked. Fernandes set up the equalizer after rolling down the left. Antony scored the winning goal .
“Lt Hag has been short of options for much of his time in charge. No doubt he will want more next season. But he has already shown himself capable of identifying what is needed in a game and finding the solution. Fez the difference against Barcelona.”