Erik ten Hag has warned Manchester United they must cut out the clangers after going down 3-2 to Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Each of Arsenal’s goals followed defensive errors as United failed to clear their defensive lines, with the final hapless attempt to play out from the back gifting the Gunners the possession that led to Eddie Nketiah’s 90th-minute winner.
Fourth-placed United are 11 points behind Arsenal after Sunday’s result, with hopes of a title challenge in tatters.
It was always unlikely United would be pushing for the trophy, but two last-gasp sucker-punches in London in the space of five days have dealt their hopes a major setback.
United conceded a stoppage-time goal at Crystal Palace on Wednesday that meant they only took a 1-1 draw, while this loss at Emirates Stadium compounds that disappointment.
“I think two games head to head, really close, it’s hard to accept that in the end you lose in the final stage of the game,” Ten Hag said.
“It can’t happen, and we have to accept that, we have to learn the lessons. All the three goals, we could and we had to avoid them. Normally we are better in such situations.”
Arsenal had 63 touches in the Manchester United box in this match.
No side have had as many in a single Premier League game in 2022-23 so far.#AFC #ARSMNU pic.twitter.com/s0rgwT5klr
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) January 22, 2023
Manager Ten Hag told Sky Sports he did not feel Arsenal’s late pressure made it inevitable they would find a third goal.
“I don’t think so. We are good in such situations, and it’s tough, that’s quite clear,” Ten Hag said. “We have to defend much better in that situation. We’re making wrong decisions and not one player but many more players, and then you concede a goal, and what I said was to avoid the same as the first two goals.”
United hit the front through Marcus Rashford and then got level with a header from Lisandro Martinez, after Nketiah and Bukayo Saka nudged the Gunners into the lead.
Nketiah’s second, a close-range prod, was Arsenal’s reward for pushing hard for a winner as United lost a grip on the game.
“We started the game very well and scored the goal and were leading, and then made mistakes that were unacceptable,” Ten Hag added. “We have to learn the lessons and move on.
“We will face the players with this because it can’t happen. Good players don’t make such mistakes.”
7 – Lisandro Martínez is the seventh Argentine player to score a Premier League goal for @ManUtd, now the most of any club (also Carlos Tevez, Juan Sebastián Verón, Ángel Di María, Marcos Rojo, Gabriel Heinze and Alejandro Garnacho). Haven. pic.twitter.com/wpW2zNzY03
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 22, 2023
Asked if the result might serve as a reality check, Ten Hag said: “It can be. Today we have to accept we are unsatisfied with this defending performance because we can do better.
“We went up 1-0 and the game is starting very well. Then you have to take benefit from that situation, and it can’t happen that we concede a goal like we did.
“This is one game. Last week we did very well and kept the opponent away from our own box. If we were in the box we defended much better. Normally we don’t concede goals from corners, and today there were two.”
When it was mentioned that United have made progress this season, Ten Hag said he could see that, but it came as no consolation.
“We realise that as well,” he said. “I just said the same words in the dressing room but also said if you want to win you can’t make the mistakes I just mentioned.”
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