‘When I took over it was a mess’: Ten Hag comes out fighting after Cup win | FA Cup

Erik ten Hag says he will join another club and keep winning trophies if Manchester United press ahead with plans to sack him after their shock 2-1 triumph over Manchester City in the FA Cup final.

Along with delivering what may be viewed as a final parting shot before he learns of his fate, Ten Hag was unable to offer any clarity on what the future holds for him. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the minority owner who controls United’s football policy, had earlier refused to say whether the victory over City would be enough for the Dutchman to stay.

United have already identified candidates to replace Ten Hag, who won the Carabao Cup final last season, and are ready to make a change after finishing eighth in the Premier League, despite the FA Cup triumph delivering European football next season.

“I don’t think about this,” Ten Hag said. “I am in a project. We are exactly where we want to be. We are constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess. The team is developing and winning. It is about winning trophies. The team plays to an identity. You need a strong squad.

“You need players available and there is a lot of work to do. The team is progressing and we are winning trophies. Two trophies in two years is not bad. I am not satisfied. If they don’t want me any more I will go [somewhere else] to win trophies because that is what I do in my whole career.”

United, who implemented Ten Hag’s tactics to perfection and won thanks to first-half goals from the teenagers Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo, secured Europa League qualification after ending City’s hopes of completing a double Double.

Bruno Fernandes celebrates Manchester United’s unexpected triumph at Wembley. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer

Yet the conversation was dominated by Ten Hag’s position. Before the final he had said to Dutch media that the club told him they want him to stay. But the 54-year‑old was evasive when pressed on whether that message was relayed to him during a review with the United hierarchy last week.

“How many times do I have to tell you this?” Ten Hag said. “Do I have to repeat myself 10 times? Twenty times? They don’t have to tell me every week. I was in some clubs where every day they tell you: ‘You are the best.’ If they tell me they don’t want me any more then I will hear it.”

Notably, Ratcliffe did not single Ten Hag out for praise. “It is a glorious feeling to win the FA Cup final at Wembley,” the Ineos magnate said. “Manchester United clearly were not the favourites to win today but they played with total commitment and skill and overcame one of the great teams in football. We are all very proud of the players and the staff who work tirelessly to support them.”

Ten Hag, who has repeatedly claimed his team’s poor form is down to injuries, was asked if United need stability. “I don’t have to think about this,” he said. “When you see the last decade, there were not so many finals for this club, not so many trophies, not so many young talents coming through. We strengthened the squad by our coaching. We also need transfer windows to bring players in and players who are always available.”

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United are monitoring Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, Graham Potter, Kieran McKenna, Thomas Frank and Gareth Southgate. Ten Hag was asked if it was disrespectful that the club have been speaking to candidates. “I don’t know if they did this,” he said. “I can’t answer this question.”

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Responding to Ten Hag’s claim that “we are exactly where we want to be”, it was suggested that the injury crisis did not excuse United finishing eighth and ending with a negative goal difference. “When you make it like this you don’t have any knowledge about managing a football team,” Ten Hag replied. “If that is the opinion I will go anywhere else. I will stay winning trophies.”

Pep Guardiola admitted his tactics were wrong after City, who looked jaded after winning the league title last Sunday, failed to defend their trophy. They improved when Jérémy Doku came on at half-time but the winger’s goal came too late. “We were not in the right position,” Guardiola said. “It was my mistake. The gameplan was not good.”

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