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Erik ten Hag tells Man Utd players to ‘man up’ after set-piece defending proves costly

Jonny Evans, Andre Onana, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Rasmus Hojlund walk away after conceding a goal
Manchester United consistently look vulnerable from set-pieces - Matthew Peters/Getty Images

Erik ten Hag has told his Manchester United players to “man up” if they are to stop gifting so many goals from corners after more poor defending proved costly against Tottenham.

With Sir Jim Ratcliffe watching from the directors’ box at Old Trafford for the first time since the Ineos owner’s £1.03 billion deal for a 29 per cent stake in the club was announced last month, United twice threw away the lead against Spurs to draw 2-2.

The result leaves United eight points adrift of the top four and does little to ease the pressure on Ten Hag with Ratcliffe – who is due to take over complete control of football operations – announcing that he expects the deal to finally gain regulatory approval within the next month.

After Rasmus Hojlund opened the scoring for United after just three minutes, Richarlison equalised for Tottenham when he headed home Pedro Porro’s corner as Ten Hag’s side conceded from a set-piece for the 10th time in the Premier League this season.

Richarlison's glancing header levels the scores at 1-1
Richarlison's glancing header levelled the scores at 1-1 - Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Marcus Rashford’s first Old Trafford goal since May restored United’s lead before Rodrigo Bentancur drew Spurs level for a second time after Cristan Romero had earlier almost exposed United’s vulnerability from set-pieces again when he headed a corner against the crossbar.

Asked what Ratcliffe – who was sat next to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford – will have noticed from the game, Ten Hag said: “He will have seen a team fighting for each other and trying to get a win. He will have seen two great goals but also what he would have noticed is we should be more man [man up] when we have to defend corners.

“I think we scored two great goals and conceded two soft goals, so especially they had all the time a threat in set-plays, we should defend set-plays better.

“The second goal came from a goal kick, we should have been quicker in organisation and stopped the diagonal, defended better from the whistle. It is the equaliser and it is no good.”

This was the first time Hojlund and Rashford had both scored in a game this season and just the sixth time in 24 domestic matches that an attacker has been on the scoresheet for United. Ten Hag admitted his forwards’ struggle for goal has bred “insecurity” throughout the team but hopes a corner has been turned.

Rasmus Hojlund celebrates opening the scoring for United after just three minutes
Rasmus Hojlund opened the scoring for United after just three minutes - Carl Recine/Reuters

“When the front players are not scoring it’s going through the whole team,” he said. “It makes everyone insecure, starting with the front players. It makes them eager when they’re not scoring, they play with less confidence.

“Also in defending, every goal we concede is a problem. But we know when we can put out Garnacho, Hojlund, Rashford and behind have Bruno and Eriksen, we must be a threat.

“I hope they keep going, there is progress, they are coming up with some routines and that is what you need, especially in the front line where a quick decision has to be made.”

Ten Hag was aggrieved United were not awarded a penalty in the first half for what he felt was a push on Alejandro Garnacho by Destiny Udogie but said he had resigned himself to such decisions going against his team this season.

“Yes,” when asked if he felt it was a penalty. “But what can you do? But I am used to it, all season that is the case. In Spurs [in the 2-0 defeat in August it] was similar, it was a clear handball from Romero and I can list a number more. In some point in the season I think it will turn to our side. Let’s hope for that.”

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