Ten Hag urges Man Utd to 'suffer and sacrifice' for long-awaited win at Liverpool
Erik ten Hag challenged Manchester United to "make it our game" and take a significant step in their development by beating Liverpool at Anfield.
The United manager is certain his players will be undaunted by a fiery atmosphere, a week on from winning the EFL Cup and ending a near six-year trophy drought.
Liverpool's Premier League form is improving, after a dismal start to the year, and United's hosts have a top-four finish in their sights again.
That is the bare minimum target for United though, given they are in with an outside chance of the title.
Results at Old Trafford have been outstanding, with United dropping just four points there since a season-opening defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, but on the road, against the elite clubs, wins have been hard to come by.
United lost 6-3 at Manchester City in October, went down 3-2 at Arsenal in January, and were held 1-1 at Chelsea prior to the Blues hitting the skids and falling away from the top-four battle
Now comes the Liverpool test, and Ten Hag said: "That is the next step we have to make then."
He took Ajax to Anfield in September 2020 for a behind-closed-doors Champions League game, at the height of the pandemic, but a full house awaits on Sunday.
"I'm looking forward [to it], I know the ambience, the atmosphere will be great. It will be hostile against us, and we like it," Ten Hag said.
"It is, of course, a test. But we're facing Liverpool and we're really looking forward [to it], I know these players, my squad, my team will be prepared to go and fight, to go with confidence, but we know it's going to be difficult.
"We know we have to suffer, we have to sacrifice to get a good result."
United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford in August, a result that got them back on track after Ten Hag's sketchy start, and the Dutchman said his team have advanced to "a different process" since that game.
They have scored two or more goals in each of their last 12 matches, one game short of matching a club record in that regard.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last six home league games against United (W3 D3) since a 1-0 loss in January 2016, but they face a resurgent team this weekend.
Despite this season's travails, Ten Hag expects Liverpool to remain a force, but United are a pace ahead of them for now and will be fancied by many to come away with the points.
"I think we are in a good direction with our philosophy, strategy and culture, and we have to keep getting progress, it's all about that," Ten Hag told a press conference.
"We face a fantastic opponent. It's all about us getting the right preparation to be ready for that game. We have to play and to make it our game."
United came from behind to beat West Ham 3-1 in the FA Cup on Wednesday, improving after a first-half display that displeased Ten Hag.
"Every day I demand the performance and I don't accept when it's low," he said. "I will criticise them and tell them what I expect, and I have to give the team solutions how to win the game, and the performance second half was much better."
There is a possibility of a quadruple, with United also still going in the Europa League, and Ten Hag sees no problem with his players lasting the distance.
"We like to play. We have energy from playing every third or fourth day, and we want to keep that going, but think about it game by game," he said.
"I think our mentality in general is very good. I think we have many leaders who set the mentality, who set the standards, who control the standards, who correct if necessary.
"I think we are happy with this process, but we can always be better and that has to be the approach."