Erik ten Hag was pleased to see Manchester United return to the standards he demands in Wednesday’s narrow Premier League win against Brentford.
Sunday’s meek 2-0 defeat at top-four rivals Newcastle led the players to have a frank discussion in the St James’ Park dressing room following what Luke Shaw called an “unacceptable” display.
Ten Hag agreed with the left-back that the Magpies had more determination, passion and desire in a result that United bounced back from three days later at Old Trafford.
Marcus Rashford’s first-half strike proved the difference in a 1-0 victory over the Bees – a night that may not live long in the memory but provided a much-needed shot in the arm.
“Very important win I would say,” boss Ten Hag said. “Of course, when you lose after the international break, you have to bounce back, so we did and I think it was a good performance as well.
“In the second half when we didn’t get a second goal it was more of a battle, but then saw the determination, the passion and the desire that I missed on Sunday.
“I think this is the standards we have to bring in every game. It’s not acceptable what we did on Sunday. We know that. This is not United, this is not the standards from United, so, yes, there were several things I was happy with.”
This was only Brentford’s second defeat in 17 top-flight matches and United’s fourth win in 10 Premier League games – a result that propelled Ten Hag’s team back into the Champions League places.
“You see the approach is changing from all the teams when you go to the end,” Ten Hag said.
“The points are more expensive in the end (of the season) but that demands also a certain mentality and when you don’t bring it on the pitch you get beaten in the Premier League.
“When one or two can’t bring this, then as a team you have a problem. I think we have seen today that is the performance I expect, I demand.”
Ten Hag was also quick to praise Rashford, who has scored 10 winning goals in the Premier League this term – the most by a United player in a top-flight season since Wayne Rooney in 2009-10.
“He played a very good game,” the Dutchman said. “I think he was really ball-secure.
“He came out of the frontline, we used him as a target, and he was again back in the box, where we expect him to be, so he was in the right moment to finish.
“It was off a corner but, OK, the cooperation between him and Marcel Sabitzer was very well, but also with Jadon (Sancho) and Antony. It was very good, so I was happy with the front four.”
The only real negative on a night when United secured three points and a clean sheet was an issue that forced Shaw off 37 minutes into his 250th appearance for the club.
“I can’t say in this moment, I have to wait for tomorrow, what the diagnosis is,” Ten Hag said, who would not expand on what the complaint was.
“I took him straight off, don’t want to risk, but we have to wait what’s the outcome.”
As for Brentford, the fact the defeat prompted a feeling of frustration underlined how much development and progress they have made under Thomas Frank.
“I think it’s a good picture of how far we’ve come when I’m sitting here, the players are sitting there and we are disappointed that we didn’t get anything out of the game,” the Bees boss said.
“That was a combination of not taking the biggest chance of the game in the second half through Kevin (Schade) and us not hitting the highest level, especially first half.
“I don’t think we were good enough on the ball, didn’t have the quality that we normally have. Of course, I expected what I saw from Man United, to dominate the first half. That’s natural, they play at home, they are fantastic side, have great, great players.”