football

Erik ten Hag urges Man Utd players to stick to plan as Newcastle claim deserved victory

Erik ten Hag urged his Man Utd players to "stick to the plan" and show resilience after a "deserved" defeat at Newcastle - but felt they still could have earned a draw.

Newcastle ran out comfortable winners thanks to Anthony Gordon's goal 10 minutes after half-time, but could have enjoyed a greater margin of victory given their level of dominance at St James' Park.

The result brought Man Utd's recent resurgence to another abrupt halt and raised more questions about their ability to compete with top-half teams, with seven of their eight wins this season coming against sides ranked 13th or lower in the current Premier League standings.

Ten Hag praised his players' fight to search for an equaliser late on - with Sergio Reguilon denied a goal by a flying Fabian Schar block and Harry Maguire by an offside flag - before admitting his side had been second best.

He told TNT Sports: "We had a tough first half. We said at half-time, we are pleased to be at 0-0 and have to stay in the game.

"We had a good comeback in the last part of the game, that's the fight we have to show.

"I'll talk to the team tomorrow about it, the regards are for Newcastle, we'll talk about it and move on to Wednesday.

"I will talk with my team. In the end, we stayed in the game, had some good chances from Reguilon, thought we scored a goal which was just offside, so we could have drawn - but you have to say over all Newcastle deserved to win."

On his side's form against top-eight opposition specifically, he later told his press conference: "I was waiting for that question. there are always issues, I know it's your job to see that.

"Or we have the away form, or we have the home form... now we have this issue. We will also overcome this issue."

In his first season at the helm, his side turned around back-to-back defeats in his opening two league games to fall to consecutive losses only once more across the rest of the campaign, with their level of resilience a key factor in their return to the top four.

Should they lose to a resurgent Chelsea side as the Premier League's midweek schedule returns on Wednesday, they will have already lost two league games in a row twice in 2023/24 with less than half the season played.

Ten Hag pointed to his side's ability to bounce back from disappointment this season, namely their three-match winning league run after losing the Manchester derby in late October.

But he did not expand on the "plan" which saw them labour to those three wins against Fulham, Luton and Everton before Saturday's below-par showing at Newcastle.

"This team is resilient," he said. "We've seen it after City, we had a bad defeat but then we kept together, stuck to the plan and kept going."

Marcus Rashford cut a particularly frustrated figure up against Tino Livramento, and was withdrawn after an hour having never threatened to add to his solitary open-play goal in the Premier League this season.

Ten Hag praised the forward, who enjoyed his most prolific season under the Dutchman last season, and defended his work ethic despite an often lethargic defensive performance at St James' Park.

"He works hard and he's investing a lot," Ten hag said. "He will get back, he will recover and he gets all our support."

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe revealed the extent of Nick Pope's injury, which forced him off for the final minutes of Newcastle's win, may be worse than feared with an operation a potential worst-case scenario for the England goalkeeper.

"I don't know what the future holds for Nick, whether he'll need an operation or not," Howe told the BBC.

"It looks bad. It looks like a dislocation of his shoulder, which he has done before. He had it operated on and came back successfully.

"We'll get it checked out and fingers crossed he's back soon."