Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has conducted his first pre-match press conference, previewing Tuesday’s match against Liverpool at the Rajamangala Stadium.
The Dutchman fielded questions about United’s pre-season training, possible new signings and the Reds’ global fanbase.
Here’s what the Man Utd boss said to the media in full.
Do you see the match as good prep, especially given you are playing Liverpool in the third game of the season?
“Yes, a game against Liverpool is always exciting and we are looking forward to it. As you say, it’s a really good test for us.
Will you play against Liverpool in Bangkok the same way you would play against them in England?
“Yes, sure. The standard of Manchester United is to win every game so we will start with that in our mind. We will be determined, and we are happy to play this game in Bangkok for many, many fans.”
Would you please tell us about the team preparations so far?
“We have just started, some players only one week, so we now have to construct a team, we have to construct a way of playing. So, we are really short in pre-season [so far]. We achieved something but we have to develop a lot more.”
Can you just explain to us what the situation is with Cristiano Ronaldo?
“So he is not with us, and it is due to personal issues.”
Erik, are you concerned about Cristiano’s communication that he wants to leave and are you prepared to let him go at any point?
“No. We are planning with Cristiano Ronaldo for this season. That’s it and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
If Cristiano wants to leave, how do you make him happy and want to stay?
“I don’t know, he hasn’t told me. I have read [he wants to leave] but I have said, Cristiano is not for sale. Cristiano is in our plans and we want to get success together.”
Have you chosen your new captain?
“Harry Maguire is the captain.”
Can you tell us why you want him to continue as captain? Do you think he has the right qualities?
“Of course. I have to get to know all the players and it takes time. But he is an established captain for a few years, and he has achieved a lot of success, so I don’t doubt about this issue.”
You’ve signed Tyrell Malacia, but you already have left-backs so why did you sign another one? And have you been frustrated by the lack of signings so far?
“He fits the profile of the modern full-back – defending good, tough to beat and in offensive plans, [he makes] a really good contribution. That’s why. The rest [on signings] is we know what we want. We not only want new players, we want the right new players. And for the rest, we have a good squad, there’s huge potential so only when we find [a player] that is a real improvement in our squad will we do [it].”
Back on Cristiano, have you spoken with him recently? And do you not feel it is important to speak with him given that his representatives have said he wants to leave Manchester United?
“I spoke with him before this issue came up. I had a good conversation with him, and I had a really good talk.”
Manchester United fans have debated the best positions for Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford for some time. Where do you see their best positions and how does that affect you planning for the striker positions going forward into next year?
“I’m short here [of information]. We haven’t even played one game, so I have to find out. In the two weeks of work, I think they are fitting together really good. We have to find out what the best [positions are] but what I already know and see is they have an impact on the defence of our opposing team. They can really hurt opponents.”
Sorry if we’re labouring on this Cristiano issue but he is one of the most important players in the history of the club. You said you’ve had talks with him, but can you just enlighten us on what was said and what he said to you?
“That is between Cristiano and me. But what I can confirm is we had a really good conversation together.”
Again, having spoken to him, do you feel he now accepts he will be at the club next season?
“What I said before. Once again, I had a really good talk with him.”
Can I also ask, are you concerned that you have only made one signing so far? Can you give us any updates on Eriksen, De Jong and Martinez please?
“We want to have the right players.”
Do you have the right players at the moment?
“We have a really good squad. We are working to develop our way of playing. If the opportunity is there [to sign players], then we will strike.”
Erik, you’ve got a new style of play to implement. How difficult is it to do that without a lot of the players you want to bring in and also Cristiano? And can you say if Cristiano will be joining the squad on this tour at some stage?
“The way of playing, to develop that is a process and takes time. Also, it’s dependent on the competences of the squad. That’s clear. How we want to play is proactive and we’re working on this. You cannot achieve this in one or two weeks. It takes longer.”
And on Cristiano joining the tour?
“I cannot tell. The absence is as I have already explained and that is it for this moment.”
On the new players, is there a particular number of players you want to see come to the club this summer and are there are any areas of your squad that you do feel need strengthening?
“In my first press conference I said we are definitely already searching for players in the midfield. There we have a need. And also in offence, we are still looking for players.”
Do you expect any signings to happen while you are on tour? You talk about the midfield. Frenkie de Jong – what would he bring if you manage to sign him?
“I never talk about players who are not under contract at Manchester United. [That] player is from a different club so I cannot say anything about this issue.”
On Cristiano Ronaldo, did you mean you had spoken to him since the news came out [that he wants to leave] or before, at the end of last season?
“No, I didn’t speak to him after.”
So you are still to have the conversation since this news came out?
“Yes, [due to] the absence, this personal issue.”
You said you’re looking for offensive players but does what happens to Cristiano shape what you will do in the market?
“No. It’s going to be a long season. And also a season that is quite unusual due to the World Cup, so you need to be prepared for this. So you will need, I think, more players than in a normal season.”
My first question is about Harry Maguire’s injury and how he is now. The other one is how do you feel about coming to Thailand?
“I feel very excited. I knew that Manchester United has a fantastic fanbase but that is only from what I had heard and what I see from afar. But now I can experience it and I see that the Thais are really excited about football, and they are really supporting Manchester United. Of course, that’s a pleasure for us all and we are really looking forward to tomorrow’s game because we know that they will all support us.”