‘Absolutely not’: Ten Hag denies United are way behind City after derby defeat

Erik ten Hag denied Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat at Manchester City showed there is a gulf between the sides and claimed that, with different officiating decisions before each of Phil Foden’s goals, the visitors could have won.

Marcus Rashford’s eighth-minute strike gave United the lead and, though he spurned further chances, City dominated throughout. Foden’s finishes on 56 and 80 minutes gave the hosts the lead before Erling Haaland’s third in added time sealed victory for Pep Guardiola’s side.

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Ten Hag believed Kyle Walker fouled Rashford before Foden’s first goal. The Dutchman also pointed to Ederson’s challenge on Alejandro Garnacho that was ruled fair before the 23-year-old forward put City ahead.

Guardiola’s team had 27 shots to United’s three and enjoyed 73.7% possession. Ten Hag was asked if the loss showed the gulf between them. “No, I don’t think so, absolutely not,” he said.

“You can see we have many problems with injuries and still we had an opportunity. Really small margins. I will not say it was a tackle from Kyle Walker. They both ran and Rashy confirmed to me there was contact and I have seen it back – was very soft. But when you are in a full-speed run and you get a little touch and then you are out of control.

“We could have scored the second goal in a debatable moment [but] we had the moment of the reckless action of the goalkeeper of City and after that attack we conceded. It’s not that big [a margin] and when we have everyone on board, we can be competitive. We showed in the Cup final against them when it was really close [losing 2-1, last May] but City, is in this moment, the best team in the world. Don’t forget this.”

City’s victory keeps them one point behind Liverpool on 63 before the champions’ trip to Anfield on Sunday. Arsenal have 58 having played one game less, while Aston Villa are on 55 points. “There are a lot of points still to play for and different places to go for all three or four contenders to win the Premier League,” Guardiola said. “First is the Champions League [on Wednesday]. In my mind tomorrow [Monday] is just Copenhagen and after Wednesday night I will think about the rest.”

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Guardiola was asked about the comments of Sir Jim Ratcliffe, United’s new minority owner, who has stated he wants to knock City off “their perch”. He said: “What I’m really proud of is still after what happened we are still able to perform with this desire. The three or four actions from Phil coming back to win the balls and recover it – he’s a winning player and this is the mentality we still have.

“It surprises me because we always [as human beings] have a tendency to drop off. But we did it today and every single game. That defines our team.”

Guardiola believes Foden is currently the Premier League’s best player. “He is right now this season, he’s been the best so far,” the Catalan insisted. “I always had the feeling he would score goals, in training sessions, I always had the feeling but now he is winning games. To become a world-class player you have to win games.

“He always had an incredible work ethic, it doesn’t matter what position he plays in, he lives to play football and now he is winning games.”

Walker said: “Phil’s been first-class this season. That’s the standard he sets for himself and the manager sets for him. He likes a shot – we call him the sniper. He took both goals fantastically well.”

Jonny Evans and Rashford were forced off with knocks but Ten Hag is hopeful each will be available for Everton’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday.