Erik ten Hag is looking forward to experiencing the hostile atmosphere at Anfield as he takes Manchester United to Liverpool for the first time.
After winning his first trophy as Red Devils boss with last weekend’s Carabao Cup triumph, defeating Barcelona in Europe and securing a spot in the FA Cup quarter-finals, Ten Hag turns his attention back to the Premier League.
Victory in Sunday’s clash would keep United in position to take advantage of any Arsenal or Manchester City slip-ups, while defeat would bolster Liverpool’s hopes of a late push for the top four.
“I’m looking forward to it, the ambience, the atmosphere,” said Ten Hag. “It will be great, it will be hostile against us, but we like that.
“I know these players, my squad, my team, will be prepared to go there and fight and to go there with confidence. We know it’s going to be difficult, we know we will have to suffer and we will have to sacrifice to get a good result.
“I think our team, our mentality in general is very good. I think we also 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 it can always be better. That has to be the approach.”
The tables have turned from recent seasons, with United the team looking virtually certain of Champions League football and Liverpool fighting for the scraps.
Jurgen Klopp‘s team have belatedly found some form in the league, winning three of their last four matches to close to within 10 points of United and six of fourth-placed Tottenham.
Ten Hag was reluctant to pronounce a definitive change to the league hierarchy, saying: “We are still in the season now. It’s always a pattern, never does it always go so consistently.
“It’s fluid and I am sure Liverpool have really good management, a really good playing philosophy and a really good strategy. We are aware of that but we are not talking about other clubs.
“We are talking about us and I think we are in a good direction and with our philosophy, strategy and culture, we have to keep making progress. It’s all about that.”
While it has been a successful first season for Ten Hag, United’s away form against their rivals has been one black mark, with defeats against City and Arsenal.
The Red Devils boss sees no reason why they cannot win at Anfield, though, saying: “I think, away from home, we’ve had some really good performances.
“For me, it’s no different – the pitch is the same size everywhere, there are three referees, there’s a fourth (official), the ball is round, there is air in the ball.
“So we have to play and to make it our game. Of course we know the ambience will not be supporting us and you have to deal with that. But, as I said, our players, they like it. They like to play in such atmospheres.”
Ten Hag expects to have Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho, who both missed the midweek cup victory over West Ham, available, and he feels his players will be energised by continuing to fight in so many competitions.
“We like to play,” he said. “We have energy from playing every third or fourth day. We want to keep that going, but think about game by game. Now it’s Sunday.”