Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag makes FA Cup final demand to squad as he recalls City thumping

Manchester United fans battling through congested motorways on the way south on Saturday afternoon may be thinking and talking of little else. But Erik ten Hag insists his players do not need the added motivation of denying Manchester City a unique piece of football history they believe is theirs and theirs alone.

Ten Hag has maintained a steady line over the ‘treble defence’ ever since United qualified for the FA Cup final with their semi-final win over Brighton. And he remained locked on track two days out from the much-anticipated first ever Manchester derby final.

“I know what is the thinking from the fans but what we want is to restore Manchester United by winning trophies so we have an opportunity to win a trophy and we don’t want to be distracted by anything,” he said. “If it is important for the fans it is important for us so we will give everything to win the Cup. But it is not about stopping them.”

Pressed on why it is not being used as added motivation a smiling Ten Hag fired back. “Because it is not necessary. It will not give more motivation for the team because for their motivation is already enough – it can’t be more. 

“They want to win a Cup and they have an opportunity. They want to set a crown of the season so what do you need more? What is more motivation?”

Whatever Ten Hag says publicly in an effort not to load his side with more pressure than they are already under in a final, the chance to preserve United’s unique piece of history is undeniably a huge opportunity for Ten Hag as well as his players.

Denying City the chance to emulate their achievement would further cement a connection with the fans not to mention deliver a second piece of silverware in his first season.

On the most recent evidence – United’s 2-1 win at home in January – the underdogs have a good chance to bite but there is the spectre of a 6-3 drubbing at the Etihad to factor in as well.

Asked which piece of form should be believed Ten Hag said: “You learn from that defeat but you learn from the win as well but I can’t say afterwards that I learn something from that game so we won the second game – I don’t think so.

“What was the difference between those results? The belief. In the Etihad we didn’t show belief. In Old Trafford we were determined to win this game from the first moment on. It is up to us that we show the same belief.”

Ten Hag’s forward options have been limited by injuries to Anthony Martial who is out with a hamstring tear and could well have played his last game for the club. Antony, who was injured in the penultimate game of the season against Chelsea, has failed to recover in time and is a major doubt.

Ten Hag will try to stifle City’s creativity and cut the connection from Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland at source so faces a dilemma whether to deploy Fred alongside Casemiro at the base of his midfield or Christian Eriksen.

The United boss used that Brazil axis in the 2-1 win at Old Trafford to good effect. “It is about the the players who are available and many times we were successful. We have a good squad and from the good squad we make a good team.

“We have had a good season but of course this is a great opportunity to make it a very good season.” Fans are keeping fingers crossed that his side manage to preserve United’s unique piece of history will agree.

Possible team: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Lindelof, Shaw; Fred, Casemiro; Sancho, Fernandes, Garnacho; Rashford 

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