We are building something – Erik ten Hag pleads for patience from Man Utd fans

Under-fire Erik ten Hag pleaded for fans to stay patient after misfiring Manchester United blew a late lead against relegation-threatened Burnley at an unhappy Old Trafford.

Things have gone off the boil since United won the Carabao Cup, reached the FA Cup final and finished third in the Premier League during a promising first season under the Dutchman.

United are scrapping for Europa League qualification having already blown their Champions League hopes, with May’s FA Cup final against Manchester City offering a chance to end a poor campaign on a high.

That may not prove enough to keep Ten Hag in the job under ambitious Ineos, who watched the Red Devils surrender another advantage in Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with struggling Burnley.

Boos greeted the final whistle having earlier echoed even louder when Kobbie Mainoo was replaced by Scott McTominay as part of a second-half double switch that also saw Rasmus Hojlund taken off.

The United boss defended that decision and called for patience, saying he needed to protect players who form the core of a young side from injury.

“We have some very young players and that’s why we built this club back,” Ten Hag said. “That takes time, and we build this by bringing in young players.

“Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho, Kobbie Mainoo – they are all in the first season of the Premier League and the Premier League gets more intense year by year.

“We have seen the data and it’s much more intense than last season, especially when you see over the last four or five seasons. Those players have to adjust and that takes time.

“I am sorry for everyone. So, I am very impatient but there we need patience and fans they need patience. We built here a team, and they need experience.

“The mental (side), when you get fatigue you have to keep focus until the end.

“Also, this season there was an extra effect that they do extra time (added on). It is often seven, eight, nine, 10 minutes so bringing more minutes in the game, to keep tempo in the game as well.

“Therefore, it is intense and more volume and that is a limit they have to cross, and they only get it by experiences.”

Ten Hag believes the benefits of this bumpy season will be evident in the years to come as United’s young players prosper.

Asked if it was off the mark to compare his developing side to United teams of the past, he said: “Oh, absolutely. They are way off the mark.

“But also the great Manchester United team, we forget they were also built. I have seen I think in 2004-05 they also didn’t play that great football.

“They were building, and it takes time, but everyone forgets, even the players who were by that time in the team, they forget they were struggling and that they needed time to progress.”

Those growing pains saw Ten Hag’s injury-hit outfit waste Antony’s 79th-minute opener as substitute Zeki Amdouni to score from the spot having been fouled by Andre Onana.

The late leveller means Burnley have only lost one of their last eight Premier League fixtures, leaving them two points off safety with three matches to play.

Nottingham Forest will extend that to five points if they win their game in hand on Sunday against Manchester City, whose former captain Vincent Kompany was proud of the Clarets’ Old Trafford efforts.

“If we come here playing with Real Madrid, I might be debating with who has chances,” the Burnley boss said.

“For me, we had big chances, we showed team spirit. Burnley did themselves proud today. That’s all that matters.

“The energy, the sacrifice as well from players for each other was there and for Burnley that’s massive.”

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