‘Fans may dream but we’re not’: Ten Hag parries United title talk after derby win

THE GUARDIAN – Erik ten Hag told Manchester United fans they can “dream” of a title challenge but he will not be carried away despite Saturday’s rousing 2-1 comeback derby win over Manchester City at Old Trafford.

The victory takes United to 38 points, one behind second-placed City. United have also beaten the league leaders Arsenal this season and play them again next Sunday while the champions are still to face the north Londoners in the league. It was put to Ten Hag that his side is in the championship race.

“The fans may dream but we’re not. We have to keep our feet on the ground and then face that our game has a lot to improve,” he said. “It can’t happen that after half-time we lose so much control of the game, for instance, and then getting down [going behind] is unnecessary.”

Ten Hag praised his players’ spirit, after October’s 6-3 humiliation in the reverse fixture. United responded to Jack Grealish’s 60th-minute opener with goals from Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.

“One of the main jobs for a manager is to work on the mentality and this has a lot of elements,” he said. “One is resilience, the determination of this team is progressing a lot in those facts, dealing with setbacks, dealing with suffering in painful moments and keep going after setbacks like a goal against.

“We have also experienced players on the pitch and know that one moment games can change and we are much better [able] to deal with such situations than a couple of months ago.”

Fernandes’s goals came with Rashford in an offside position but because he did not touch the ball it was ruled legal after at first being chalked off.

Pep Guardiola said: “Rashford is offside, Bruno Fernandes no. [Whether] Rashford intervenes or not, he distracts our keeper and our central defenders. Are we going to make a complaint? No. It sometimes happens on our side. I won’t say we win or lose for this action.

“We played really good. I care about the Premier League. We will fight, but sometimes football is like this. They deserve it.”

Manuel Akanji, one of City’s defenders who was distracted by Rashford, was more vociferous. “The first goal is a joke that it is going to be allowed like this,” he said.