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Erik ten Hag acknowledges Man Utd's long road ahead in quest for derby glory

Erik ten Hag knows Manchester United "have a way to go" as they look to kickstart their season with a statement derby victory against rivals Manchester City.

All eyes will be on Old Trafford this Sunday as Pep Guardiola's treble winners look to halt the Red Devils' wholly unconvincing three-game winning streak.

United required their latest ever Premier League comeback to beat Brentford 2-1 before an international break they returned from with a win by the same scoreline at rock-bottom Sheffield United.

Ten Hag's team toiled to a third straight victory in all competitions on Tuesday, when Andre Onana's last-gasp spot-kick save sealed a crucial 1-0 win against Copenhagen in the Champions League.

It was another narrow escape for a United side that need to be far better if they are to stand any chance of winning the 191st Manchester derby.

"We are in the right direction, and we have a way to go," Red Devils boss Ten Hag said.

"I see positives, I see also negatives. We are not consistently, in possession, on the level where we can be, where we show in games we can be.

"Like for instance, Arsenal away. Also, the first 30 minutes in Bayern Munich away. But we should do this on a consistent basis.

"But pressing, we are quite good. We have the most ball regains from the whole Premier League, we have the most middle regains from the whole Premier League.

"So, there you see, our defensive organisation, our pressing organisation. I said before the season how we wanted to play, that is us.

"But then, we don't take the benefit in the attacking transition moments, and we should be because we have the abilities in our team, the players there who can take benefit from it.

"We paid some attention to it, and this has to grow, this has to progress. Then games will become easier."

United's spate of defensive injuries has undoubtedly impacted them this term, so too their inability to show a clinical edge in front of goal.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have only managed one goal apiece this term, while summer signing Rasmus Hojlund is looking to open his Premier League account after scoring three European goals.

Asked if the lack of goals was the forwards' fault, Ten Hag said: "Fault? It's co-operation and that has to click.

"We showed this week some examples where we are in overload positions going to the opponents' goal and we don't net, or we don't even hit the target. We should do this better.

"I'm sure we don't have time to train this fact, but we get some coaching and I'm convinced with the qualities from our players, that they will go and score more goals."

The form of Rashford – who scored the winner when these sides last met at Old Trafford back in January – has been particularly alarming.

The England forward has looked a shadow of the player that plundered 30 goals in 2022-23 during the opening months of the current campaign, but there is confidence he will soon open the floodgates.

"Especially give him the trust, I play him every game," Ten Hag said.

"Most of the games also he finishes. I have a strong belief he will return to scoring a lot of goals."

 

Read More: Pep Guardiola: Andre Onana's self-belief will be stronger after penalty save (planetsport.com)

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