Carabao Cup: United’s defence doesn’t bother Ten Hag as Awoniyi misses semis

MANCHESTER United manager Erik ten Hag is not concerned about his side’s defending despite their letting in late goals that affected the results of their last two Premier League games.

The Red Devils drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace on Wednesday after Michael Olise equalised for the hosts in added time, while Arsenal grabbed a 90th minute winner through Eddie Nketiah in the 3-2 win over Ten Hag’s side on Sunday.

Still, Ten Hag insists his side’s defensive capabilities do not worry him as United get set to face Nottingham Forest tomorrow night in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.

Forest will be without their Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi, who has missed the last few fixtures with an injury after hitting good form.

According to Opta statistics, Arsenal recorded a season-high 63 touches in the United box and their expected-goals (xG) figure of 3.1 was the second-most United have allowed in a game this season, only beaten by the 6-3 Manchester derby defeat in October.

Before the Emirates Stadium clash, United had kept 11 clean sheets in their previous 18 outings, including the 3-0 victory over Forest in December’s Premier League meeting at Old Trafford.

“No, I think in a lot of games we defended very well, we had a lot of clean sheets,” Ten Hag told reporters at his pre-match press conference today when asked if his side’s defending was a cause of concern.

“Against Man City [in the 2-1 win at Old Trafford], we defended very well. I think, in general, also against Arsenal, we defended well.

“I don’t think they had many clean shots, I think the one time [they did] was from a free-kick. But the rest were shots from distance, when we had a lot of defenders in between the ball and the goal.

“That’s what I meant when I said all the goals were avoidable and it can’t happen. That was my point, when you concede three goals in a top game, it is very hard to win the game.

“That is what happened so that is one of the conclusions. It can’t happen. We set that conclusion. We [the coaches] showed them [the players] and we have to learn and take this lesson.”

Ten Hag explained that he is focused on his team’s performance and the first leg at the City Ground, rather than thinking ahead to a possible appearance in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

“It’s about that, it’s about winning trophies,” he added. “We have a good opportunity but we have to go from game to game.

“So now we play Forest, two legs, so focus on the first leg and don’t think further ahead because that will distract. So the aim for tomorrow is to win that game.”

When asked about the impact of winning trophies following his successful spell at Ahax, Ten Hag admitted United needed to win silverware again, six years after their last success in the Carabao Cup and UEFA Europa League.

“It was the best feeling what you can have, winning a trophy,” he noted. “I had the luck in my career to win some trophies and it was magnificent, especially for the fans. It’s so great.

“The fans here, they have some experience, especially the older fans. And now it’s a period when Manchester United didn’t win any trophies and it’s too long ago, so we are aware of that fact. We have to do everything to bring a trophy in.”

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