Erik ten Hag did not lose sleep over his decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire to the bench for Manchester United’s clash with Liverpool back in August.
After starting their Premier League campaign with successive defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford – the second of those losses a 4-0 reverse – United kick-started their season by beating Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford.
United have only got better since under Ten Hag, who claimed his first trophy as Red Devils boss last week when his side saw off Newcastle United 2-0 in the EFL Cup final.
They head into Sunday’s meeting with Liverpool at Anfield in third place, 10 points ahead of their sixth-placed hosts.
Ten Hag made two big calls by leaving Ronaldo and club captain Maguire out of his side in the reverse fixture, but he has no regrets over that decision, and suggested that would be the case even if the result had been different.
“I have to see and to face the consequences of it. The impact from the decisions, not only on the short term but on the longer term, of course,” he said in a press conference.
“I think you always have to think statistically and [consider] what is the consequence in the longer term. I am aware of it but that’s my job and that’s the responsibility I have to take.
“I had reasons, they were obvious. And I knew also the consequence and also when it was a negative outcome from that game, which always is possible in football.
“But I’m not worrying. I sleep well, also on those nights, and I have to take decisions in respect of the team and the club. That is my job and that is the responsibility I have to take and I have to stand for those decisions.”
Ten Hag’s decision paid off, though while Maguire – who turned 30 on Sunday – has remained at Old Trafford as a bit-part player, Ronaldo left the club in November after an inflammatory interview in which he criticised United’s manager.
While Ronaldo has departed, his former Real Madrid club-mate Casemiro has been an emphatic success since his arrival.
“I had a player in Ajax who set such standards, but definitely Casemiro in this team, he is such a leader and he is so important for us,” Ten Hag replied when asked if he had ever coached a player like Casemiro.
“Not only with his performances, skills, like scoring a goal, or his header, or like linking up or intercepting balls. Organisation, the mentality, the culture, and we are so happy that we signed him.
“I think when you go to recruitment, we were looking for players with character, with personality and it was not only about signing a player – there are a lot of players in the world that have great skills. We are looking for players who have character. Players who have personality, who have leadership, who take responsibility, who are resilient.”
Indeed, there has been no surprise for Ten Hag when it comes to Casemiro’s quality.
He said: “I knew what a magnificent player he was. Just look through his profile. You see all the cups he won and that’s not [a] coincidence.
“You have players who win, and win always, and players who lose and always lose. Of course, you have to do your research and find that type who will win and who are cooperative in the dressing room to be humble but when they are on the pitch they take responsibility and you can sit on the bench and you are composed.”
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