Ten Hag wants Man Utd to be ‘smart but nasty’

Diogo Dalot (left) was booked after two minutes in Sunday’s Manchester derby

Erik ten Hag has called on his Manchester United players to “play smart but nasty”.

United saw a four-game Premier League winning run ended by a humiliating 6-3 defeat by Manchester City on Sunday.

Ten Hag’s sixth-placed side have received 23 bookings in seven games his season – the second most in the league.

“I know nasty,” Ten Hag said. “I know what nasty is. I think also in that matter we can progress. Sometimes also play a little bit more smart.”

The Dutch manager added: “We have too many bookings and some in the start [of matches]. I heard in the Premier League they will play tough but I’m really wondering why we collect so many bookings. I don’t understand.”

Only Nottingham Forest (24) have accumulated more yellow cards than United in the English top-flight this term.

Portuguese right-back Diogo Dalot earned a team-high fourth booking after just two minutes in Sunday’s Manchester derby loss.

“The first booking on Sunday, I really don’t understand that. We want to play tough, we want to keep the game going,” Ten Hag said.

“Then in the second minute already it’s a booking. I think it’s a duel, clear it was a foul, but to then get booked? Also I saw many other bookings where I think ‘OK, is that necessary’?

“But also I take it to the players. I have to keep the mirror [on them] that they have to play smart, but also they have to play nasty as well.”

United responded to their weekend disappointment with a 3-2 Europa League win over Cypriot side Omonia on Thursday.

Ten Hag said he wants that result to be a “warm-up” for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Everton (19:00 BST) as he seeks a consistent level of performance and intensity from his squad.

“It’s physical, it’s mental but it’s also sustainability especially,” Ten Hag said.

“When you had a lack of it in the last years, it’s not something that you build or progress in a week or a month. It has to be in your system. It’s a demand nowadays in top football.

“I think it’s quite clear that [Manchester] City is a standard in that, and there are more teams, but I think also we can deliver that.

“We have seen it against Liverpool, we have seen it against Arsenal, but now we have to do it on a consistent basis and that is what we have to work for now.

“But that will not come overnight. It will also take more than weeks, it will take months.”

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