Erik Ten Hag insisted Manchester United were still “on the up” despite being comprehensively outplayed by rivals Manchester City in Sunday’s derby.
Erling Haaland struck twice – the first from the penalty spot – and Phil Foden added another as treble winners City eased to a 3-0 win in a one-sided Premier League encounter at Old Trafford.
The result underlined City’s superiority over their neighbours – the gap between the sides now being nine points after 10 games – and emphatically ended any suggestion United might have turned a corner after winning their previous three matches.
Manager Ten Hag nevertheless put a on brave face on what proved a chastening afternoon for the club’s fans.
The Dutchman said: “The three games before we won and the spirit is very good. The fighting spirit is very good.
“I think we are on the way up. The start was difficult, but now we are on a way up.
“We have to be patient, but I’m happy some of our injuries are coming back and then our side will be stronger.”
Ten Hag felt United were competitive in the first half, which they ended trailing only 1-0 after Haaland’s 26th-minute penalty.
He said: “When you see first half, it’s toe-to-toe. Just the penalty changes the game.
“But even then we could have got back in the game, for instance with that shot of Scott McTominay just before half-time.
“So, I think from chances it was very toe-to-toe.”
Ten Hag did admit, however, the second half was “absolutely not” close.
He said: “We were losing and I decided to bring more offensive power in and we made a mistake that was not according to the game plan.”
Ten Hag repeatedly said he had “no comment” to make on the penalty decision, which was awarded for a foul by Rasmus Hojlund on Rodri following a VAR review.
Opposite number Pep Guardiola claimed his side’s victory had not been as straightforward as it looked.
City strongly asserted their authority in the second period as an unmarked Haaland headed his second and teed up Foden for the visitors’ third 10 minutes from time.
Guardiola said: “It looks easy but it’s not, really it’s not.
“We have a lot of respect for United, for what they do, but we were at our best, especially in the second half.
“The second goal helped us a lot. We were saying at half-time they will be more aggressive and they were, but we made two incredible two build-ups.
“Bernardo (Silva) and Jack (Grealish) made a good action and Erling scored the second goal. That was the key point of the game.”
Guardiola admitted he did not anticipate his side dominating the local scene as much as they have when he arrived in Manchester in 2016.
He said: “I know what we have done. I don’t know what United have done because I’m not here, but I didn’t expect it when I arrived here with Jose Mourinho, with (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, with the top, top players of (Romelu) Lukaku and the squad.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub