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Manchester United v Liverpool: Ten Hag says Red Devils always rise to the big occasion

Erik ten Hag believes Manchester United reserve their best for the big occasion and is confident his players will produce against Liverpool on Sunday.

United get the chance to end their north-west rivals’ bid for a domestic and continental quadruple when Jurgen Klopp’s men visit in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

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It promises to be a white-hot atmosphere and Ten Hag says that is when his players thrive.

“In such games, we always achieve very good performances,” he said. 

“We [have] had our setbacks, our lows but I don’t think in any really high-rated game we had our lows. We were always on top form and I’m convinced we will be on Sunday as well.

“We want to win, you play against a good team. They are very consistent so we need our best to beat them.

“Liverpool perform very well, the coach and the results, from around Christmas into January, February they play very good football, very good performances and very good results.”

Ten Hag’s claim that United are at their best in the biggest of matches doesn’t necessarily ring true – they managed a drab goalless draw at Anfield earlier this season but then lost home and away to Manchester City and slipped out of the Champions League following a limp 1-0 defeat in a must-win game at home to Bayern Munich.

Nevertheless, the Dutchman is hoping a win against Liverpool can transform their fortunes and pave the way for a strong end to the season.

Asked if the game could turn their campaign around, he added: “We never got turned around so far [in terms of form]. We had our opportunities but we missed our opportunities. 

“Sunday we have another good opportunity to get the momentum. The players showed lately, from January on, we are in a very good [run] of games, a lot of wins. They have to believe they can do it. Now we have to take the momentum.

“That is what I feel when I train with them around the games, they have belief, good confidence and good spirit to go and play and get the turnaround.”

Ten Hag’s gameplan will centre around trying to get in behind the Liverpool defence.

He said: “We are very good when there is space in the back of the defending line. We showed against Man City, it was really small margins, when we should have got the second goal. Even after their first, [at] 1-1, with [Alejandro] Garnacho, we had a great opportunity to make it 2-1. We could have won this game.

“That will be also be our intention for Sunday, we will go and be brave and go forward where it’s possible. We know when there is space in the back of their defending line we can exploit it – but we have to get to that point, to outplay them, get the balls there and that demands good strategy in the key moments.”

United have suffered from persistent injury problems this season but the walking wounded are starting to return.

“We had a good week, [Rasmus Hojlund, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka] returned on the pitch. Partly at the start of this week and today we had a session and they were all training,” added Ten Hag.

“I think [they’re available] we have one session tomorrow and we have to see how they recover from this. It looks good.

“Tom Heaton is back as well. Mason Mount trained all week with us. Some full sessions with us. So it’s looking good.”

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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