Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag was pleased to see his team play “the way I want to” in his team’s 1-0 Premier League win over Southampton.
Ending a six-month stretch without an away win, United claimed the victory thanks to an excellent finish by midfielder Bruno Fernandes.
It was the move that led to the goal which enthused Ten Hag most, as Anthony Elanga made space with a daring run, eventually finding Diogo Dalot who crossed to compatriot Fernandes. The run of Marcus Rashford created space for Fernandes, who made a difficult chance look easy with an top-drawer finish.
After the match, Ten Hag was “really happy”. He began by pointing out that his team had learned well from their 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Brentford two weeks ago.
The Manchester United manager explained: “I was satisfied. At the start of the game, if we had some better decisions with switch of play, we could have had more.”
Ten Hag was reasonably pleased with the first half, arguing that his team created plenty of good chances, including “three chances in one play” just before the break.
It was after the pause, when his players were able to put into practice the half-time instructions. Ten Hag was enthusiastic.
He said: “Straight after half-time we created three really good chances. That is how I see football, that is how I want to play.”
One specific tweak was in Marcus Rashford’s role.
Ten Hag explained: “I think it was the best part. Straight after halftime when we kept control. Rashford was more often the target. This is what we demanded at half-time. Be more the target and we can play off you and move around.”
The Dutchman was careful to add that there remains plenty of room for improvement, particularly in the final 30 minutes when he felt his team lacked control, adding: “If we had some better decisions with switch of play we could have had more.”
BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand was similarly optimistic, but declined to go overboard, saying “I’m not going to get carried away like I normally do, and become a meme.”
“I’m happy. You just want improvement,” Ferdinand continued, adding: “It’s nice to see that there’s some positivity coming back. Still loads to do.”
Unlike Ferdinand and Ten Hag, Paul Scholes was unimpressed.
Ferdinand’s fellow BT Pundit said the main highlight of the match was “just winning the game”.
Scholes continued, saying: “I don’t think they played great. I don’t think they created loads of chances.”
The expected goals for the match was very tight, with Southampton edging the visitors 1.37 to 1.33.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said afterwards that he was “very proud” of his team’s performance and believed that they deserved more.
Hasenhuttl believed his team were dangerous from virtually every possession, but “the ball didn’t want to go in.”