Erik ten Hag emphasizes that Manchester United must harness the disappointment of their narrow defeat in the FA Cup final against Manchester City to enhance their performance and eventually close the gap on their dominant rivals.
The spotlight of the footballing world was on Wembley as these fierce adversaries clashed in a major cup final for the first time on Saturday afternoon.
Ilkay Gundogan took the lead with a breathtaking volley just 12 seconds into the match, but Bruno Fernandes equalized from the penalty spot, nullifying the fastest goal ever scored in an FA Cup final.
However, City regained the advantage through another sensational volley from Gundogan, securing a 2-1 victory and giving them the opportunity to replicate the achievements of United’s treble-winning heroes from 1999 in the upcoming Champions League final.
While many United fans had already embarked on their challenging journey home due to train strikes, missing their rivals’ trophy celebration, Ten Hag and his team observed those jubilant moments.
“First of all, show respect always,” the Dutchman said. “But, yeah, of course, it’s a motivation.
“You have to feel it in your stomach. This hurts and it has to be fuel.
“We want to be there and our team, my players, deserved it, but you have to grab it and that is the next step we have to make.”
It was a galling end to a promising first season under Ten Hag, who is proud to have overseen a third-placed finish, Carabao Cup win and narrow FA Cup final loss.
“I want to congratulate City for winning the FA Cup, but I think it was very narrow, it was head to head,” he said. “We played very competitive out of a very good organisation.
Erik ten Hag defends De Gea despite Spaniard’s poor performance
“We didn’t allow them out from open play against probably the best team in the world in this moment.
“We fought back after going a quick goal down and I think we are the only team in the world who is capable of fighting back against this team from City.
“So, yeah, I was happy with the performance of my team.”
David De Gea’s role has been debated all season and his part in City’s second goal has been called into question, leading Ten Hag to be asked whether he was comfortable having him going into next season.
“In this moment, I don’t want to talk about such issues, about criticism because we played all a great season, including David De Gea,” he said of the goalkeeper, who has yet to extend his contract beyond the summer.
“He played a fantastic season. If you consider that City and us before today both had 42 wins.
“Now they have one win more, so the difference was made today. Then you can tell we played a fantastic season and it’s more than we could have expected before.
“We were third in the league, we are qualified for the Champions League, and we won a trophy and we were in another final.
“So, yeah, I’m really happy with the performance from my team all over,”