Newcastle 'annoying' to play against – Ten Hag
Erik ten Hag warned his Manchester United team not to be "distracted" by their "annoying" EFL Cup final opponents Newcastle United.
United face Newcastle in Sunday's Wembley showpiece, bidding for the first major silverware of the English season.
But Ten Hag is not expecting a free-flowing encounter, having noted Newcastle's gamesmanship during the campaign.
"I think it's a great team," Ten Hag said of Newcastle, who held United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford in the Premier League in October.
"It's a clear philosophy about how they play the game. The key word is 'intensity'. They do really well. They're an annoying team to play against, so we have to find a way to win."
Asked if he had meant to describe Newcastle as "annoying", Ten Hag confirmed and replied: "They try to annoy you. So, we have to make sure we play our game and focus on our game."
Pressed further on the matter, Ten Hag highlighted Newcastle's perceived time-wasting.
It was the subject of some contention when the Magpies lost at Liverpool early in the season – one of only two Premier League defeats for Eddie Howe's side.
According to Opta data, only Leeds United matches have seen less time with the ball in play than those involving Newcastle. However, Aston Villa lead the way for yellow cards for time-wasting, with 11 to Newcastle's five (Fulham have six).
"They are quite successful with it," Ten Hag said. "It's up to us that there's speed in the game, but we are also dependent on the refereeing as well."
At Anfield, Nick Pope was the subject of some criticism for his role in these tactics, but he will miss Sunday's match through suspension, meaning Loris Karius is in line for a Newcastle debut in their biggest match of the season.
"It's an issue for them that they have to sort. Of course we know it," Ten Hag said. "It's definitely not an advantage.
"We can't influence it; the one who is holding [the gloves] can influence it. We have to test him, it's quite obvious."
Asked if Pope's absence would impact Newcastle's gamesmanship, Ten Hag replied: "I don't know the instructions of the opponents. I cannot influence that.
"We have to make it our game, so focus on the job we have to do, focus on football when the ball is in the game. It's about that, being fully concentrated on that and don't get distracted by whatever is on the pitch.
"We have to focus on the job, find our way and find the moments when we can strike."