Tuesday, January 24, 2023

By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer

Erik ten Hag pledged to do everything in his power to help Manchester United end their worst trophy drought in 40 years ahead of the Carabao Cup semi-final clash at Nottingham Forest.

The Old Trafford giants are synonymous with silverware but have not added to their cabinet since beating Ajax to lift the Europa League title aloft in Stockholm in 2017.

United have reached the semi-final stage of various competitions on six occasions since then, going onto lose in the 2018 FA Cup final and 2021 Europa League showpiece.

Ten Hag’s improving side are now two matches away from their shot at glory and ending their six-year wait for silverware – a relative drought last experienced between 1977 and 1983.

“It’s the best feeling you can have winning a trophy,” the United boss, who won the Eredivisie with Ajax last season, said.

“I had the luck in my career to win some trophies and it’s magnificent, especially for the fans.

“It’s so great and I think the fans here have some experience, especially the older ones.

Ajax v Manchester United – UEFA Europa League Final – Friends Arena
Manchester United last won a trophy in 2017 when beating Ajax in the Europa League final (Nick Potts/PA)

“But now it is a period Manchester United didn’t win trophies and it is too long ago.

“We are aware of that fact and we have to do everything to bring a trophy in.”

United kick off the two-legged semi-final on Wednesday night at what is sure to be a rocking City Ground. The Red Devils have not played there since 1999, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored four off the bench in an 8-1 win.

“It’s a long time ago (since United played there) eh?” Ten Hag said. “But I think we like that – a fanatic audience is nice to play for.

“It will be a good atmosphere and I think it will motivate the players and we have to get ready for that.

“It’s about winning trophies, so we have a good opportunity, but you have to go game from game, so now we play Forest, two legs, so focus on the first leg.

“Don’t think further, don’t think further ahead because that will distract, so the aim for tomorrow is win that game.”

United are looking to get back to winning ways after a pair of frustrating Premier League trips to the capital.

Michael Olise’s late free-kick sealed Crystal Palace a 1-1 draw last Wednesday, with Eddie Nketiah striking at the death as table-topping Arsenal triumphed 3-2 on Sunday.

“We left it behind,” Ten Hag said of the Emirates Stadium loss that left him critical of some of his side’s defending.

Arsenal v Manchester United – Premier League – Emirates Stadium
Manchester United suffered a late defeat at Arsenal on Sunday (John Walton/PA)

“We set the right conclusions then we have to move forward and quickly because tomorrow is a big game so focus on that.”

Asked if defence is an area of concern, Ten Hag said: “No, because I think a lot of games we did very well.

“We have a lot of clean sheets. Against Man City we defended very well.

“I think, in general, also in Arsenal, we defended very well. They didn’t get clean shots. There was only one time from a free-kick.

“For the rest, it was only shots, cutbacks, shots from distance, there was a lot of defenders from us in-between the ball and the goal.

“That’s what I meant – all the goals were avoidable so it can’t happen. That was my point.

Manchester United v Burnley – Carabao Cup – Fourth Round – Old Trafford
Anthony Martial will miss Wednesday’s game against Nottingham Forest (Isaac Parkin/PA)

“When you concede three goals in a top game, then it’s really difficult to win a game. That’s what happens so that is one of the conclusions.

“It can’t happen. We set that conclusion, we talked about, we showed them, we have to learn and to take this lesson.”

Casemiro returns from suspension against Forest, but Anthony Martial, Diogo Dalot and Jadon Sancho will be absent once more.

Ten Hag added: “All the players who were not available for the Arsenal game, so Dalot, Martial, Sancho, are also not available for tomorrow.”

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