Erik ten Hag denied that Manchester United required the luck of a controversial Bruno Fernandes goal to beat Manchester City in January’s derby, with the manager pointing to his side’s superior expected goals (xG) in the game.
That match at Old Trafford ended 2-1 to Ten Hag’s team and came after the champions had humiliated United 6-3 in October’s reverse fixture. City took the lead through a Jack Grealish header before Fernandes equalised. The goal was initially ruled out because Marcus Rashford was in an offside position but was awarded after the forward was deemed not to be interfering with play. Rashford later scored the winner.
United face City for a third time this season in Saturday’s FA Cup final, with Pep Guardiola’s side the favourites. Ten Hag was asked whether one reason for wanting to beat City would be to prove his side did not need the fortune of a similar decision.
“I wouldn’t explain it in that way because I have also seen the xG from that game and it was really [for] our side,” he said. “No [fortune], as I say.”
Ten Hag also denied he would use halting City’s tilt at matching United’s treble success of 1999 as motivation for his players. City face Internazionale in the Champions League final a week on Saturday and United are the only English club to have claimed a league, FA Cup and European Cup treble.
Ten Hag said: “I know what the fans are thinking. But what we want is to restore Manchester United by winning trophies. So on Saturday we have an opportunity to win a trophy and we don’t want to be distracted by anything. If it is important for the fans, it is important for us, so we will give everything to win the Cup.
“It will not give more motivation for the team because their motivation is already enough – it can’t be more. They want to win a cup and they have an opportunity. They want to set a crown on the season.”
Anthony Martial will miss the final with a hamstring injury that Ten Hag described as serious. “Going to be a long one but how long we don’t know,” he said. “We have to do more assessment.” Martial’s United future is unclear and the length of recovery may make him more difficult to sell.
Ten Hag was less optimistic than previously regarding the fitness of Antony, who has an ankle injury. “He didn’t make progress so he still has a chance but unlikely he is available.”